We could be looking at the start of the "Youk" era in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

How The Phillies Might Be Able To Pry Chase Headley From the Padres' Cold Dead Hands

Why don’t the Phillies where camouflage unis? Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Allow me to interrupt the Phillies’ non-stop pursuit of an outfielder with the last name “Upton” (B.J. or Justin, take your pick) to focus on a position that no one really believes has any chance of being fulfilled to anyone’s satisfaction next year.

Third base is a black hole, both on the Phillies and on the free agent market.

Kevin Youkilis is the best “everyday” player available. And to say that the 34-year-old Youk’s numbers were down a bit in 2012 is something of an understatement (.236/.336/.409 with 19 HRs just 122 games). Guys like Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez are decent platoon options, but nothing terribly sexy either.

No, there are only two sexy ways to spruce up third base in 2013 and beyond.

The first would be to somehow drug Mets GM Sandy Alderson and force him to trade David Wright to the Phillies.

The second would be to come up with package that would be enticing enough for the San Diego Padres to part with MVP candidate Chase Headley.

Headley came into the 2012 season as a nice player, but blossomed into a bona fide superstar, putting together a Mike Schmidt-like season in cavernous Petco Park.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2007 23 SDP NL 8 21 18 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 .222 .333 .278 .611 68
2008 24 SDP NL 91 368 331 34 89 19 2 9 38 4 1 30 104 .269 .337 .420 .757 110
2009 25 SDP NL 156 612 543 62 142 31 2 12 64 10 2 62 133 .262 .342 .392 .734 102
2010 26 SDP NL 161 674 610 77 161 29 3 11 58 17 5 56 139 .264 .327 .375 .702 97
2011 27 SDP NL 113 439 381 43 110 28 1 4 44 13 2 52 92 .289 .374 .399 .773 120
2012 28 SDP NL 161 699 604 95 173 31 2 31 115 17 6 86 157 .286 .376 .498 .875 144
6 Yrs 690 2813 2487 312 679 139 10 67 319 61 16 288 629 .273 .351 .418 .769 115
162 Game Avg. 162 660 584 73 159 33 2 16 75 14 4 68 148 .273 .351 .418 .769 115
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/8/2012.

One wonders why San Diego would even think about trading a guy like Headley, given his production at a position that is scarce in baseball. Up until now, Headley has been cheap, costing the team only $3.475 million last year. However, this year marks his first year of arbitration, which means he could probably expect to see that salary nearly doubled. And while he doesn’t become a free agent until after 2015, the two succeeding years of arbitration would also likely feature significant raises.

Headley is about to price himself out of San Diego.

Not only that, the Padres have a young third baseman in the high minors named Jedd Gyorko, who is already Major League-ready. So, they have a Headley replacement already in line.

This week, ESPN’s Buster Olney said the Padres are considering making Headley available, and would be looking for a lot of pitching help in return…

The Padres have had some conversation with third baseman Chase Headley about a multiyear contract, but it’s unclear whether the current climate is the best to make a deal. Headley is clearly a player the Padres would like to keep, and Headley is open to a deal.

But you couldn’t blame the 28-year-old Headley if he wanted to get paid more like the player he was after the All-Star break, when he was sixth in the majors in OPS and No. 2 in homers (23), despite playing in the Padres’ cavernous home ballpark.

And you couldn’t blame the Padres if they were inclined to pay him more like the player he has been for most of his time in the big leagues — a very good player, rather than the second-half superstar.

So it may be that for both sides, more information is needed. With Headley still two years away from free agency, and with the Padres set to bring in the fences in different parts of Petco Park, they could wait to make a deal.

The Padres’ priority this offseason will be adding starting pitching, and as they assess trade and free-agent possibilities, they do have a lot of depth to work with, in the eyes of rival executives.

As Olney notes, there is still a chance Headley could get a multi-year deal that takes him up to free agency. But there is also some question about what he’s really worth. So the Padres may feel safer about promoting their stud young third baseman from the minors, rather than ponying up a three-year, $20-25 million deal for Headley.

Which brings us to the Phillies. Unless Kevin Frandsen has all of a sudden decided to turn into the next Placido Polanco, only without the yearly cascade of injuries, the Phils don’t have an answer for this position. And they would love to somehow get their hands on Headley if the price and prospects were right.

San Diego, however, is looking for a haul in return for trading a budding, 28-year-old, could-be superstar, and they’re looking to the Matt Latos deal last year as a primer on what they would want this year, as ESPN’s Jayon Stark pointed out a couple months ago

…the Padres are looking for at least an approximation of what they got for Mat Latos last winter — a package that brought them three highly regarded prospects (Yonder AlonsoYasmani GrandalBrad Boxberger) and their No. 1 starter, Edinson Volquez.

While the Padres might not equal that haul, the clubs in this hunt understand Headley won’t come cheap. As one interested GM put it, they know these teams are “not bidding against themselves.”

The reason the Phillies might consider giving up a healthy portion of their farm system for Headley is that he wouldn’t simply be a one or two-year option. The Phillies could conceivably keep him until free agency, or sign him to a long, multi-year contract in two years. At 28, he’s just now entering his prime.

This wouldn’t be a rental. This would be a keeper.

So, what would it take? Honestly, the Phillies may not have the pieces necessary to get the job done. San Diego is looking for pitching help, so the Phils would probably have to give up their two best young arms in the minors, Trevor May and Jesse Biddle, and probably Vance Worley, a cheap #4 starter who can be a #3 if he’s healthy. The Phils may also have to throw in a bat, like Darin Ruf.

Would a May/Biddle/Worley/Ruf deal be enough to land Chase Headley? Is it too much to give up?

Before rearing back and pulling the trigger, it’s important to recognize that Headley’s second half surge could be an illusion, a hot couple of months that is over-inflating his value.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 86 84 370 315 39 84 20 1 8 42 10 4 50 88 .267 .368 .413 .780 130 .342 81 117
2nd Half 75 75 329 289 56 89 11 1 23 73 7 2 36 69 .308 .386 .592 .978 171 .332 122 167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/8/2012.

But with May’s down year in Reading, Worley’s up-and-down 2012 and the fools gold the Phils may have struck in Ruf, there may be no better time for Amaro to make a call and see if he can’t pry Chase Headley from the cold, dead fingers of GM Josh Byrnes.

It’s a risk for both sides. But I think a deal of Biddle/May/Worley/Ruf for Headley is one that’s fair, and is a gamble the Phillies should make, maybe even this week at the GM meetings.

Otherwise, it could be Kevin Youkilis time in 2013.

Tags: Chase Headley Philadelphia Phillies San Diego Padres

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