The Padres and Chase Headley have been working toward some sort of contract extensions for a while now, though the details seem a bit few and far between. The third baseman and his team agreed to a one-year, $8.57 million deal so they don’t have to deal with arbitration, but nothing seems to be going on when it comes to keeping Headley in San Diego for years to come.
I was perusing MLB Trade Rumors in search of Headley news when I noticed that the lovely Tim Dierkes projected Headley to get something like a four-year, $40-50 million extension with the Padres. It was at this point that I realized Chase Headley is one of the few players in baseball who has a legitimate chance to wind up underpaid relative to talent level. It’s certainly very rare, but it can absolutely happen in today’s game, and Headley has just the right skill set to cost himself money.
Headley’s obviously a very talented player who has been rumored to be on the verge of a true break out for years now, but his big year didn’t come until last season at age 28. Still right in the prime years of his career, Headley has a solid chance to build on the new level of production he’s established for himself. Perhaps part of the problem is that a concern exists that Headley will revert back to the player he was before the start of the 2012 season. Thing is, that’s not a problem when it comes to making a long-term commitment to the guy.
Sure, ideally Headley would pile on dominant season after dominant season going forward, but he’s still plenty valuable even if he doesn’t. He’s a truly unique player in that he has a skill set that should really be appreciated by almost any kind of fan but somehow isn’t anyway. Headley caught the attention of baseball fans in large part because of his 2012 power numbers, which were much more substantial than what any of us are used to seeing. Headley’s raw athletic ability and patient approach at the plate suggest he may have more big power seasons in him, and Petco is finally moving its fences in. Even if Headley only clears the wall a dozen times a season from here on out, though, he remains an asset thanks to his glove, solid base running, and sophisticated work at the plate.
FanGraphs’ UZR has consistently lauded Headley’s work at the hot corner, and scouts have done very little but concur that he can handle the position very well. Headley is also typically a smart base runner who makes very few mistakes, and his walk rates have only been escalating more and more as his career progresses. Third base simply isn’t the power hitter position it once was, and a player like Headley who deftly handles the position while ensuring a high OBP and virtually mistake-free fundamental play is very valuable.
Over the last three seasons, Headley has been worth 15.1 WAR according to FanGraphs, a very impressive total that translates to over $60 million of production through the site’s valuation system. That’s pretty incredible, but unless Utley logs eyebrow-raising baseball card numbers again, he may be doomed to be forever underrated or enter the minds of fans as a one hit wonder.