Clearly in a rebuilding stage, the San Diego Padres surprised some baseball pundits when they recently announced a three-year, $27 million extension for outfielder Carlos Quentin.
It was thought that the budget-conscious Padres would attempt to trade the San Diego native for a haul of prospects, much like they did with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and right-handed starting pitcher Mat Latos.
Perhaps the new deal for Quentin signals that the Padres are ready to build a National League pennant contender instead of selling core players when they reach the expensive arbitration years or near free agency.
San Diego, which is 43-58 entering Saturday night’s clash with Miami, is receiving significant interest in third baseman Chase Headley as Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline draws closer. The Padres are open to dealing him if they get top prospects, Major League players under affordable team control or a mix of both.
It makes sense for San Diego to trade Headley, if it can receive multiple prospects and/or young major leaguers in return. A 28-year-old switch-hitter, Headley is batting .265 with 12 home runs, 51 RBI and a .784 OPS this season. His .359 on-base percentage is fourth-best among Major League third basemen.
Those numbers are in line with his two previous seasons (2009 and 2010) that were uninterrupted by injuries. Headley is steady, but he has yet to have a breakout season, and the Padres have top prospect Jedd Gyorko hitting .340 with 16 home runs, 57 RBI and a .986 OPS.
When called up, the 23-year-old Gyorko will give the Padres a nice group of young position players with high ceilings, including first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal, both of whom were acquired from Cincinnati for Latos last off-season.
The Yankees are among the teams said to be interested in Headley. Alex Rodriguez is on the disabled list with a hand injury. Short term, Headley can fill in for Rodriguez. Long term, the Yankees could move the athletic Headley to right field if Nick Swisher departs via free agency.
With the presence of Gyorko, and San Diego’s multiple needs (including starting pitching, a right fielder and middle infielders), trading Headley can help the team for the long term.