The San Diego Padres designated third baseman Chase Headley for assignment on Saturday, effectively ending the veteran’s second run with the ballclub. The team announced it will recall infielder Cory Spangenberg from Triple-A to take Headley’s spot on the 25-man roster.
On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal. The 34-year-old veteran was off to a miserable start with just six hits in his first 52 at-bats. It is kind of a big deal for San Diego though, because Headley was currently the second highest paid player ($13 million) on the team behind Eric Hosmer ($20 million).
For a team that traditionally doesn’t spend a lot of money — the Padres $96 million payroll ranks 25th out of 30 teams — they’ll undoubtedly end up taking on a lot of dead money here. That’s assuming, of course, Headley goes unclaimed or isn’t traded. At this point, both seem highly unlikely.
The decision probably wasn’t an easy one for San Diego general manager A.J. Preller, and not just because of the money involved. Headley was a big part of the Padres beginning back in 2007. Along the way he put up some solid numbers, moving into the franchise’s top 10 in hits and home runs.
Here’s a quick look back at Headley’s journey to and from San Diego, and back again.
Headley debuted with San Diego in 2007, but wouldn’t become a regular until 2009. He split his early days between left field and third base, before taking over at the hot corner full-time in 2010. His biggest season came in 2012, when he clobbered 31 homers and drove in a league-high 115 runs. Headley finished fifth in the National League MVP voting that season, while locking up his only career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.
With free agency pending, the Padres traded Headley to the New York Yankees nine days before the 2014 trade deadline. The Padres received Jose Rafael De Paula and future contributor Yangervis Solarte in return. With Alex Rodriguez suspended for the season, Headley stepped right in at third base and hit .262/.371/.398 in 58 games for New York down the stretch. Despite his contributions, the Yankees ultimately fell short of the postseason.
The Yankees were impressed enough to give Headley a four-year deal, $52 million contract in free agency the following winter. Despite remaining a decent starter, Headley never really lived up to the deal. He slashed .262/.335/.386 with 37 total homers and 174 RBIs over the next three seasons. Headley is currently in the final year of this contract.
With plenty of reinforcements coming in 2018, the Yankees decided to move on from Headley. They eventually found a trade partner in Headley’s old team, the Padres. On Dec. 12, Headley was reacquired by San Diego along with pitcher Bryan Mitchell and cash for outfielder Jabari Blash.
As noted, Headley was off to a dreadful start this season, producing a .115/.233/.135 line in 60 plate appearances. Headley’s struggles, coupled with the emergence of Christian Villanueva, ended up leaving the veteran without a defined role on the team. Though the Padres aren’t necessarily in a full-blown rebuild, it didn’t make much sense holding a roster spot for Headley when there are younger options available.
Despite his struggles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Headley land another opportunity somewhere. Contenders are always looking for experienced bats off the bench, and he could probably contribute in the field some too. It’s a costly favor, but if Headley winds up as a contributor on a contender, he’ll no doubt be very appreciative.
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