Trade Values – Chase Headley

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.

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus
2012 $1,700,000 1.5 $7,500,000 $5,800,000
2013 $6,960,000 3.0 $15,000,000 $8,040,000
2014 $9,280,000 3.0 $15,000,000 $5,720,000
      Total $19,560,000

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.

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The Padres already have a very strong MiL system. They have pitching and position players. Therefore, trading for a group of middling prospects by sending away a decent ML player who will not be a salary burden makes little sense for the Padres. Because the Padres have a strong MiL system, I expect them to want in return a very-high ceiling player who is close to the Majors. I wouldn’t trade Cole or Taillon for Headley. Nor would I trade Heredia or Bell.

Why not? The reasoning is simple: The Pirates will not contend for a WS title in 2012. Headley might enable the Pirates to win the 2012 Division title. But I also would not count on that happening. Consequently, the Pirates should not trade away a top talent — or top talent — for a player in the midst of his peak season(s) during the 2012 season. The future is not now. If the Pirates want to make a trade in the near future, the team ought to trade for a younger player with a high ceiling who would peak in 2-3 years. The team, if everything breaks right, may be striving for a WS title in a few years. To my mind, trading prospects for MLers able to provide immediate help but who are well into their ML careers is a Drive for 75 (or 83) move for an organization that should have left that bad strategy behind it when it shed the McClatchy Partnership and the McClatchyfield management regime.


I like the Headley idea, especially if he’s moved to RF – and for the players, Lincoln is still the piece to go along with a Gorky’s or perhaps Hauge.


Grossman, McPherson, Owens, and maybe D’Arnaud? Would that work?


Or would they take Hanrahan, Grossman, and McPherson?


The rebuilding Pads have no need for a closer scheduled to make $7M+ in his final year of team control in 2013. Your Grossman-McPherson-Owens proposal is more fair, I think.


Grossman, Owens, d’ Arnaud, Cain is a fair package if your going off of Headley’s #s. I feel Cain is still intriguing to teams because of his age, frame and arm.


Grossman is from San Diego too, for a fun fact of the day.

Vicente Barletta

The question is where does Headly play? I don´t think the Pirates are going to move Alvarez to 1B yet or trade him, for that matter. I would put Headley at RF and platoon Presley and Tabata in LF. Then for next year move Headley to 1B.

John DiVito

The Padres are not going to give away their best hitter for a couple of mediocre prospects. We are going to have to give away something of significance. Also, the Padres are similar to the Pirates in that they are pitching heavy and hitting light, so I bet they would want hitters in return.

I know everyone wants to buy a hitter right now, but honestly it is such a bad market we need to wait. I don’t want to overpay for a guy that is just a little bit better than what we already have (Headley vs. McGhee). Seriously, look it up. They have the exact same career OPS.


So wait your saying “We are going to have to give away something of significance” to get Headley. But yet your saying he is no better then a Casey McGehee based off his numbers, in which your totally right if your going off #s. So you really think NH and Byrnes don’t see his stats? Headley hit 4 HRs last year. OPS in the 700’s. What can Byrnes really expect? Plus they have Gyorko in waiting. I think Byrnes would take a 2-3 player package of younger upside guys.

Thom Kay

McGehee is a 1B who can play 3B, though he’s barely done that this year. Headley is a 3B who can play OF, though he hasn’t played anywhere but third since ’09. I think they’d both play, though Headley is a much better hitter.

Since the start of 2011 (over 700 PA’s for each player) Headley has a .784 OPS to McGehee’s .642, a .348 wOBA to McGehee’s .281, and a wRC+ of 127 to McGehee’s 74. That is an enormous discrepancy.

I’d like to know what the plan would be for Pedro Alvarez is we brought Headley on. My guess is that he’s the one who would lose at bats.


Headley’s home/road career splits are so severe that I think he would elevate his game greatly as soon as he gets to a more neutral park. It’s almost as if the park is in his head.

John DiVito

I understand what you are saying, but ultimately isn’t that speculation? The point of a “established” player for prospects trade is that you know the value that the “established” player will bring.

History tells us that Headley isn’t that much better than McGhee. Also, he isn’t much of a slugger, with only about 1 home-run about every 50 at bats in his career. It only improves to 1 every 43 at bats career on the road. We have guys like that even outside of McGhee in Matt Hague, and to a lesser extent Josh Harrison and some AAAA players at Indy.

Thom Kay

Matt Hague and Josh Harrison haven’t put up anywhere near the offensive production that Headley has the past two years. While you are correct that Headley is not a power hitter, he is still consistent and effective.

Hague has done nothing to demonstrate that he can hit consistently at the major league level. Furthermore, he’s not a 3B. Headley is, and a solid fielder at that.

You are also comparing McGehee’s and Headley’s career numbers again. Headley has gotten better over the past few years, while McGehee was good in ’09 and ’10 and has been below average since (though he is hot right now).

This isn’t to say that Headley is necessarily worth trading for. I would hate to give up too much. But there is sufficient reason to believe that he would be a significant upgrade for the team.

John DiVito

I agree with you that Headley is headed in the right direction for his career and McGehee is headed in the wrong direction. Plus Headley being a good fielding 3B is a plus. Pedro has been ok this year, which is better than he has been in the past.

My point was to throw some water on the Headley fire, as I don’t think he’s THE ANSWER that some people think he would be. He would be an effective player, but I would be hesitant to give up multiple of our top 10 prospects for him, as some are suggesting we do.

Lee Young

With you on that Kevin. Grossman and one of our “Non Big 3” pitchers would be fine. ONLY if he can play 1b or RF, tho.


He played left for a few years early in his career. He’s a better third basemen defensively than Pedro, so I would move Pedro to first next year and put Headley in right for this year.

Vicente Barletta

A package of Polanco and Kingham seems fair enough. Maybe add Garret Jones for the Padres inmediate need of power.


I could see a package based around Grossman and a lesser pitcher such as Kingham or McPherson. I wouldn’t part with Cole, Taillion or Heredia. I’m sure they want bats since they don’t have a problem getting pitchers with that park.

Lee Young


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