Last week, the Pirates were said to be looking for corner infielder help in this piece from Ken Rosenthal via MLB Trade Rumors. One of the players mentioned in the article was 3B Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres.
On the surface, Headley may not seem like much of an improvement for the Pirates, as his triple slash line is .261/.372/.416 (788 OPS) with only 7 home runs this season. However, Headley’s numbers have been suppressed by the cavernous Petco Park for the Padres. His home splits for 2012 (.250/.363/.363, 726 OPS) versus his road splits for 2012 (.272/.382/.474, 856 OPS) are in line with his divergent career home/road splits (664 OPS at home, 810 OPS on road). Headley seems like a player ready to explode if he gets into a hitting environment even relatively close to neutral.
The switch-hitting Headley has hit 2/3 of his career home runs as a left-handed batter, so the shorter porch at PNC Park would cater well to that trend. Headley also brings something that is sorely lacking among Pirate hitters: plate patience. Headley’s 2012 on-base percentage of .372 would be 2nd on the Pirates behind Andrew McCutchen’s .382 mark. Even using Headley’s career OBP rate of .346 would still place him 2nd ahead of Casey McGehee’s .333 OBP in 2012. In fact, I would advocate that if Headley were to be obtained he should be installed as the leadoff hitter, but that idea may be a little too unorthodox right out of the gate.
Headley is a Super 2 player, meaning that he will get 4 cracks at the arbitration system, and 2012 is his 2nd year. His salary for 2012 is $3.475 M on the heels of an injury-beset 2011 season in which he earned $2.325M. Using the assumption that a Super 2 player is compensated in his 4 years at 20, 40, 60, and 80 percent of his presumed free agent value, you can see that Headley has been paid as if he is a $8.7 M to $11.6 M player. For the purposes of this trade analysis, we’ll use his potential free agent value as $11.6 M for his remaining two Super 2 years. We will also use $1.7 M as the remaining amount on Headley’s 2012 salary.
Headley’s career WAR numbers have been 0.5 for 2008 (91 games), 1.5 in 2009, 4.9 in 2010, 2.7 in 2011, and 2.7 in 66 games for 2012. Using a weighted average, Headley’s average WAR is right around 3.0 per season for his career. With Headley on in his age-28 season in 2012, he will still be in his prime 29 and 30 years for the next two seasons, so there is no need to regress him in this analysis due to age.
If we use the newly updated Trade Surplus Values, Headley’s surplus value of $19.6 M would equate to one hitter ranked in the 26-50 range by Baseball America, or two hitters ranked 51-100 by the same list. Alternatively, the value could also be achieved by trading a pitcher in the 11-25 range or one from the 26-50 range plus a pitcher ranked 51-100. There are any number of combinations that can be achieved, as well, especially using non Baseball America-ranked prospects with the Beyond the Box Score trade values.
Equating all this to Pirate prospects, two hitters in the 51-100 range would be Josh Bell and Starling Marte. A pitcher in the 11-25 range is Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. Using John Sickels’ Top 20 Pirate prospects for 2012, the grade B hitter not on the Baseball America Top 100 list ($5.5M value) is Robbie Grossman. The grade B pitchers ($7.3M value) are Luis Heredia, Kyle McPherson, and Nick Kingham. That’s obviously subject to change, as I imagine some of these players’ perceived values have changed since these lists came out, while other prospects (Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco for example) are entering the equation.
It would seem more likely that for this type of transaction it would be more of a package of lesser prospects, rather than a 1 for 1 swap of Headley for a top tier prospect. The interesting item to consider is whether San Diego’s GM, Josh Byrnes, would be selling Headley based on his potential to replicate his “road” stats once he gets traded away from Petco Park. In a way, he would undercutting his own stadium and bargaining position to an extent, but clearly Headley is a better player than what is seen on the surface of his stats.