Padres star third baseman Chase Headley would like to stay in San Diego, writes ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. Headley, who is having a rather disappointing 2013 season following his breakout 2012 performance, is set to become a free agent following the 2014 season, and it remains to be seen how the Padres will deal with his impending free agency.
Headley told Crasnick that his "first priority would be to stay in San Diego" long term. "I love San Diego, and I've been with a lot of guys in this room for a long time. There are a lot of pieces here, and we're a lot closer [to contending] than people think," Headley added.
The Padres originally selected Headley in the 2nd round of the 2005 amateur draft. The University of Tennessee alumni spent just two years in the minors before making his big league debut in June of 2007. Headley earned the starting job mid-way through the 2008 season, and for the next four years was a steady producer in the Padres' lineup. At age 28, Headley finally broke out last season, slugging .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs, a 145 wRC+, 7.2 WAR, and a league leading 115 RBIs. He won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award while finishing 5th in NL MVP voting.
Unfortunately, Headley's overall production has slipped significantly in 2013, as he is currently hitting .243/.335/.380 with a 3.1 WAR in 126 games. Headley is still an above average offensive weapon with a 110 OPS+ this season, and his defense has continued to be phenomenal. However, Headley has seen both his strikeout rate increase and walk rate decrease, while seeing a significant reduction in his power output. He is on pace to finish with the same double and triple totals as last season, but his home run total has slipped from 31 bombs last season to just 12 this season, despite the Padres bringing in their fences before the season.
Headley suffered a thumb injury late in spring training, and it is very possible that lingering effects from the injury have hampered his play this season.
Considering Headley will probably be more valuable then a compensatory first round selection in the 2015 amateur draft, the Padres have two viable options for how to handle Headley's future with the team.
The first option would be to sign Headley to a contract extension this winter. While the option probably seems appealing to the Padres organization, as they could get a potential discount on a star-caliber player coming off a disappointing season, Headley's camp may prefer to delay the signing of a new deal until sometime during the 2014 season, in hopes that Headley can recover some of his lost stock.
The other potential path for the Padres would be to trade him sometime this offseason or before next summer's trade deadline. There should be a decent number of teams looking for a long term solution at third base, with the Dodgers and Angels being two possible suitors.
Whichever option the Padres decide on, Headley has made it clear that he would like to remain a Padre. If he can regain his 2012 production, then Headley could be a cornerstone for the next contending Padres team.