Padres send Headley to Yankees for Solarte, prospect
Third baseman spent parts of eight seasons with San Diego, including big one in 2012
By Daniel Kramer
CHICAGO -- Padres interim general manager A.J. Hinch has been forthright in his aggressive stance to alter the roster with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching.
That was evident on Tuesday when he shipped heralded third baseman Chase Headley and $1 million in cash to the Yankees for utility infielder Yangervis Solarte and right-handed pitching prospect Rafael De Paula.
Prospect acquired by Padres
Rafael De Paula, RHP: De Paula signed with the Yankees in November 2010, but he didn't get cleared to play for more than a year because of discrepancies with his identity and birthday during the signing process. Once he did get on the field, however, he blew hitters away in the low Minors with a fastball that sits in the mid 90s. But as he has advanced, De Paula's struggles with control and a lack of a quality offspeed offering have become more apparent. He has compiled a 4.83 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP over the past two seasons at Class A Advanced Tampa, despite striking out 154 batters in 138 innings. If DePaula isn't able to make the necessary adjustments, he'll likely end up as a power reliever in the big leagues.
"This was a deal in the making for a little while," Hinch said before the Padres' series opener at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. "Trading Chase Headley to the Yankees, we get back two players that we like.
"Difficult, knowing what Chase Headley has meant to the Padres, what he's done. Also very necessary when it comes to the situation we're in and the pending free agency for Chase. It was a move that we felt was needed to move this organization forward."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters on Tuesday that he was prepared to strike the deal as early as five days ago, but Hinch held off to shop the third baseman's value.
"Certainly gave us time to survey the market and see where other options might be," Hinch said. "Cash did a good job of making him a priority, and certainly communicated that to me from day one. It takes a few days to sort of get your arms around ending an era that included Chase Headley with the Padres."
Headley, 30, batted .266 with 186 doubles, 87 homers and 401 RBIs in 908 games over parts of eight seasons with the Padres. His production, however, has slowed since his 2012 campaign, when he belted 31 homers and led the National League with 115 RBIs. Heading into Tuesday, Headley was batting .229 with seven homers and 32 RBIs while posting a career-low .296 on-base percentage.
"Throughout Chase's career, there's been so much conversation about 'Is he going to sign? Is he going to get traded? Is he going to fulfill his timeline here?'" Hinch said. "The reality of it is that as he approached free agency, we weren't winning, it became evident that a trade was the best outcome."
Hinch acknowledged internal conversations about a potential qualifying offer to Headley, which would've been worth close to $15 million, but said "as it became more and more unlikely that we were going to exercise that, a trade became a little more relevant."
The move doesn't come as a surprise, as Headley had been touted as trade bait as far back as his Gold Glove season in 2012, when his stock was at its highest.
But it was still a blow to the clubhouse dynamic on Tuesday as players reported to Wrigley Field without the team's second-longest tenured player.
"You can't really prepare for leaving a teammate like that, but you know it was going to happen at some point," said outfielder Will Venable, who played with Headley at stops in the Minors. "We're sorry to lose him, but at the same time we're excited for his opportunity to play in New York. They're just a couple games out, so I'm really happy for Chase."
Headley, 30, ranks among the franchise leaders in games played (908, sixth), at-bats (3,286, fifth), hits (873, fifth), doubles (186, fourth), home runs (87, eighth), RBI (401, tenth), walks (377, seventh) and strikeouts (844, first).
His exchanged commodity, Solarte, landed in Chicago at 6:50 p.m. CT, and was in the dugout for Tuesday's game. Manager Bud Black said Solarte will start at second base on Wednesday.
"It was good to get him in the dugout to meet the guys," Black said. "He's excited to be a Padre, I can tell. He was excited to be here. He knows this is a great opportunity for him. We're going to get him out there tomorrow and see what he can do.
"He's a pretty steady all-around player. We'll utilize him around the diamond. I like the fact that he's versatile. I like the fact that he's playing well this year."
De Paula is headed to Class A Lake Elsinore, bringing with him a 6-5 record with a 4.15 ERA over 20 appearances for Class A Tampa. Hinch said he's had his eye on the 23-year-old Dominican since last year's Futures Game, when he pitched a scoreless fifth inning with a strikeout.
"He throws hard, he's got a good changeup and he's a good prospect to have," Hinch said. "We thought the return was right.
"For 64 games of Chase Headley, we knew that the time was coming for us to move in a different direction. This team is going to look different moving forward. New doesn't mean bad."
Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.