There are Welcome Home stories, and then there’s Chase Headley. There are rough starts, and then there’s Chase Headley. Nobody wants to see a player struggle and get sent packing, but the inevitable has happened. The Padres have designated Chase Headley for assignment.
When he was acquired along with Bryan Mitchell for Jabari Blash (and some cash), the move was panned as an odd pickup from the start. The logic seemed to be that the team liked Mitchell’s promising talent, and they were likely to flip Headley before he ever had a chance to put on a Padres uniform. He was even told as much by AJ Preller himself immediately after the trade. Well, plans fell through. The trade market dried up as Evan Longoria became a Giant and Zack Cozart became an Angel and Todd Frazier signed a bargain deal with the Mets and Mike Moustakas signed an even better bargain deal with the Royals, so the Padres rolled into Opening Day with Chase Headley manning third base, along with most of his $13 million salary for the 2018 season. With Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg apparently ready to vie for the third base job, it wasn’t an ideal situation, but Headley hit well through spring training and the job was his to lose.
Then Opening Day happened. We had talked ourselves into accepting the fact that he was our third baseman again. Many had forgotten what a franchise cornerstone he once was, but all that mattered was what he could do for the Padres this year. On Opening Day, we were reminded of why we grew tired of Headley a few years ago, as he worked the count well but made unproductive outs. He came up in extra innings, with runners on second and third and one out, and all we needed him to do was not make two outs. A sacrifice fly or the right ground ball would have scored the winning run. A walk would have prolonged the inning. Instead, he grounded into a double play, ending the inning, and the team went on to lose the game. As the season rolled on, he continued to disappoint, only generating one hit in his 41 plate appearances as a starter, while Christian Villanueva caught fire and ripped the job out of his hands. As a bench player he was mildly more effective, but not useful enough to remain on a Major League roster, regardless of his contract status.
Friday night was the final straw. Headley came in as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and finished the game at third base, going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. Saturday morning we all looked at our Twitter feeds and saw the words “Desginated for Assignment”, with Cory Spangenberg coming back up from AAA to take his roster spot. Now the Padres have an apparent platoon of Villanueva and Spangenberg for the foreseeable future at the position, while Headley is left to ponder what went wrong, and what happens next.
The story of Chase Headley’s Padres career has now nearly met its conclusion. He’s in DFA limbo right now, waiting to learn whether the team could find a trade partner, presumably one where the Padres still eat most of his albatross contract. If he passes through waivers he’ll probably elect free agency, if the Padres even offer him the option to stay around in AAA El Paso. In all likelihood, the team will pay him the balance of his salary this year as he walks out into the free agent market as a formerly acclaimed player with an awful recent past. As this brief chapter in his career comes to an end, it’s easy to rip a guy that was an odd fit and stumbled out of the gate, but by all accounts he’s been a professional throughout this odd adventure. One day we’ll look back at his career numbers and see that he made a significant impact on this franchise, but for now most fans are glad to see that this strange ordeal is over.