San Diego Padres

Rosenthal: Giants “turning aggressive on Headley”

Hot Stove League. It’s a fun time of the year, a time when teams sound like desperate guys who won’t stop texting.

“Wanna hang out and play third base for us next season?” 

“Hey buddy! Buster, B-Craw, Belt and Panik were going to go play some infield … wanna swing by AT&T for three to four years?”

“Chase, what’s up? Sorry, we just think you’re a really cool guy and would love for you to join our team. <3 U!”

While the Melky Cabrera “interest” always seemed far-fetched, “solid” is a good word for the Giants’ desire to fetch the best available third baseman on the market. The going offer (four years for $65 million, per Jeff Passan) seems a bit high for a player whose OPS has gone from .875 (in 2012, his “wtf season”: 31-HR, 115-RBI when he finished fifth in the MVP voting) to .747 in 2013 and .700 in 2014.

However, his numbers picked up after the trade to New York: OPS of .768 in 58 games with the Yankees.

Why the Giants are interested …

Headley may be the one person on earth who can prevent a 2015 San Francisco Giants Opening Day lineup that features Joaquin Arias. Matt Duffy has been talked about as a possibility at third base as well, even though he’s only played the position for THREE games in his professional career.

The Giants aren’t willing to risk much when it comes to infield defense, and Headley should fit right in. Even four years down the road, with Headley finishing out a four-year deal at age 34, he should be an above-average defender. He’s relatively durable (144.5 games per year over the last six seasons), and a torn meniscus could’ve played into his offensive decline in 2013 — he played through the injury from Spring Training on, and underwent surgery immediately after the season ended.

“His mentality is to play every day through minor injuries and other discomforts,” Bud Black said. “He goes to the post and his durability is huge. He sets a great example every day, not just with his performance but how he goes about the game.”

So there’s a dependable glove, a decent bat (114 wRC+ for his career … Pablo Sandoval’s is 122) with an extraordinarily high ceiling that was reached in ’12, OK speed (seven stolen bases in 2014 would’ve put him in fourth place on the Giants) and durability/character/intangibles (if we take Black at his word).

There are three other reasons why the Giants are being “aggressive.”

1. He’s a switch-hitter.

2. There’s no qualifying offer attached to Headley. (That’s why the Giants might feel comfortable extending themselves a bit, since the QO dilemma is why I don’t think there’s much of a chance they’ll end up with Cabrera, Ervin Santana or Francisco Liriano.)

3. This reason is ridiculous, but any fan who’s listened to enough Giants/Padres game on the radio will nod when they read this: close your eyes and imagine Jon Miller’s voice saying “Chase Headley,” as if he’s a character in Downton Abbey. So smooth.

Why the Giants might hesitate …

Headley’s numbers were awful in 2014 before the Padres dealt him: .229/.296/.355 over 77 games. He’s also one of those hitters the Giants generally shy away from, because he isn’t a contact guy. His career on-base percentage (.347) is great. His strikeout numbers are fairly high. He’s averaging 150 per 162 games played in his career, which is higher than anyone currently on the team (yes, even higher than Brandon Belt’s rate of 136 per 162 games).

In the end, the current state of the market at third base (awful) and everything Headley brings (mentioned earlier in this post) makes this signing seem fairly likely. Don’t be surprised if Headley becomes a Giant next week.

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