Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Calling Up Headley

First of all, let me say that I'm a little disappointed that I haven't received a bunch of questions about this so far, especially considering all of the talk on the subject. After all, these types of situations are perfect for this forum. I'll just assume that everyone wanted me to enjoy my trip to New York with my son. :-)

So, hit me with it. Hit me with all of your questions (just don't expect me to get to them before Friday).

I will say this, though. There is no such thing as the perfect time to call up a prospect. Do you do it when the team is winning? When they're losing? When the guys in front of the prospect are playing well? Playing poorly? When the prospect is playing well in the minors? For how long? Two weeks? A month? There are arguments for all of the above and many more. Incidentally, calling up Headley last year from AA straight to Wrigley Field wasn't ideal, but we thought it gave us the best chance to win so we did it.

My only answer is that in a perfect world (which rarely, if ever, occurs), I prefer bringing guys up when you have the reasonable hope that they'll never go back down to the minors. That is strictly my opinion, not anyone else's. This was the case with guys like Khalil and Jake. All too often, though, you see guys come up, struggle, then go back down. That roundtrip ticket can do a lot of damage to a player's confidence, and that confidence is a key ingredient to success at the highest levels. Along those lines, think about what it did for Kouz last year when Buddy stuck with him and kept putting him out there. We all expected Kouz would hit, but I'm confident that the decision to keep him in the big leagues throughout his struggles was an element in his eventual success, even if just a sliver.

There are examples at nearly every level. During spring training of 2003, Nick Swisher was having a monster camp. After being drafted in 2002 he had finished the season in High-A ball, and the plan all winter was to start him back there. Due to his great spring, some people starting pushing for Nick to go to AA even though he didn't even have a year's worth of minor league at-bats yet (I'm sure I was one of them). I specifically remember Keith Lieppman, the Farm Director of the A's, saying, "If he goes to AA and struggles to the point where we have to send him back to A ball, I won't even know where to begin to pick up the pieces." Nick Swisher was not a guy who lacked for confidence, by the way. So, Nick started back in A ball, killed it, moved to AA, and so on.

I'll never forget Keith making that stand, especially considering his experience in player development is second to none. We all want to get our players to the big leagues as quickly as possible, but we also need to be as prudent as possible (and Keith needed to remind us in that situation), because when the players get there we want to succeed. Not survive. Succeed.

If a player can experience immediate success, he can take a leap forward on the Major League learning curve. Hopefully that will be the case with Chase.

I look forward to your questions.


tb30 said...

There have been a lot of rumors that Decker has signed (the UT stated this) and yet I know he hasn't. When you get back from New York will Decker become a Padre?

augustus said...

Mr. DePodesta,

If Headley struggles will he be given as long a leash as Kouzmanoff was? Despite the prevailing opinion among Padre fans, McAnulty has shown himself to be an above average offensive player and have excellent plate discipline, and is therefore a better option to replace a Headley than the Padres had to replace Kouzmanoff last year.

I hope you enjoyed New York...and if you didn't get there this time I recommend the Natural History Museum, I'm sure your son would love it.



Melvin Nieves said...

How much higher than .373 does Paul McAnulty's OBP have to get before he sees regular time?

Or is there another aspect of his game the team does not like?

Anonymous said...

How long until you buy out his arbitration years with a 6 year contract? That seems to be the trend these days.

Will we ever see him back at third? Does his being forced into left field reduce his value? Everything I've read indicates he is a much better fielder at the hot corner than Kouz.

On another note, if Antonelli starts hitting again (he's 8 for his last 20 with a couple walks), could he be called up later this year? Would you consider giving him the starting job to begin next year?

opasewq said...

My question is say Headley comes up and just starts playing very well and quickly becomes an everyday player and shows great promise and big league tools. Then what is the organizations philosophy on locking him up early maybe akin to Longoria, Tulowitzki or Braun?

I assume every situation is different, i.e. agent and organization.

And if you can't really speak to that, perhaps you have an opinion on teams that do lock up young talent early.


Chris said...

Many people said that Headley would have started the season with the Padres if not for the fact that he was moving positions. Was his bat MLB ready in April and now his defense is finally major league ready or did you feel his bad needed seasoning? Did you ever consider moving Kouzmanoff to left instead of Headley considering Kouz is below average defensively?

Lou P said...

Hi Paul

General call-up question, not specific to Headley. How do you feel about bringing up a future blue chip starter and putting them in the pen like Liriano or Chamberlain, vs. making sure they get their innings in as a starter from day 1. I always believed these guys should remain starters at almost all costs, but can't really argue with the to date success of the two mentioned earlier.

Unknown said...


I would love to know some specifics on the timing of Headley's call-up. It seemed a little contradictory when KT cited "the right situation" for Headley to be promoted when his first appearance would come at Yankee Stadium. Why wasn't he in Cleveland for instance?

As with Kouz, an early slump can happen to anyone but a good hitter given time and experience should eventually hit (provided they don't get bounced to the Minors. Kudos!).

I guess I am wondering, with a seemingly fantastic clubhouse environment in SD, Maddux, Giles, Hoffman et al, how much did pressure and environment really weigh into the decision compared to simple defensive proficiency and comfort level?

How much was financially motivated? (Fiscal responsibility is nothing to be ashamed of!) :)


It Might Be Dangerous... best invention since the splitter :)

Matt said...

I'm sure most fans are simply looking forward to the inevitable Blazing Saddles jokes.

That's Headley!!!

The YES cameras had a shot of what they said were all the Padres employees yesterday. Looked like a lot of happy people. At least, until the game started...

Anonymous said...

Who makes this type of call? Does the manager say "I need help". Does the GM make it "You need help" or "The kid is ready"?

When a team carries three second basemen on the bench and three catchers, how much of that is (typically) the GM liking second basemen and how much is the manager wanting certain players?

Unknown said...

I'm a Red Sox fan, so the NL West is probably the division I hear the least about. I've certainly noticed a lot of talk about Headley, but I don't really know what kind of player he is (or rather, what people hope he is). What would you say his general strengths and weaknesses are and, in his prime down the road, what kind of numbers would you hope he can regularly put up?

Peter said...

Shoot, I'll bite.

I get a lot of what you're doing, the financial element has been dismissed, but it makes sense for us to try to retain Headley's services for as long as we can (I'm not calling the Padres cheap, I'm complimenting them on prudence), his walk rate is improving, his power is on full display, etc. The one thing I don't get is why New York? NY is famous for making veterns fade...

On a side note, I was talking with Geoff Young (Ducksnorts.com) and another friend and we were guestimating who would be at the four corners in five years. There are a lot of options for each. It's an exciting time to be a Padres fan. Thanks for your part in that.

Unknown said...

I grew up with Swisher, great guy. I wouldn't call him a friend but we had many mutual friends and ran into each other from time to time. I'm no A's fan but was a little upset when he got dealt to the White Sox. I've always wondered what playing in an environment like the one Ozzie creates is like. Personally, I'd tell him to shove it up his ass probably so it wouldn't be good for me.

Anyhow Headley is a good player. I'm not really a Padres fan either so are not real familiar with the team's situation but hopefully he comes out with some energy and gets the team motivated.

Unknown said...

How much did money, arbitration, super two and other concepts I don't fully understand come into play with when Headley would be called up?

isuquinndog said...

Mr. DePodesta,

I'm interested to hear what has changed in Headley from the end of ST to now. What has changed your mind on him? Was it simply his performance in AAA or is it something more than that?

Thank you!

Unknown said...

I think Paul McAnulty's defense and baserunning has probably hurt him. I'd rather look at OBP too, but I can think of three pretty major gaffes he has made that cost the Padres runs (defensively and offensively in the games I have seen) The 22 inning loss where he was thrown out trying to get to third. So of course, Headley misplays a ball in the corner in his first ML action this year. I forget my point.

Anonymous said...

in regards to young talent, at what point does a FO try to sign a player for an extended contract. I am thinking of a particular player that is playing his position well, hitting well, has speed, and plays a position that is very thin in the organization. At what point do you try to lock him up?

Mr. Redlegs said...

Wow, Paul, this is a great thread topic, one that fans of baseball and any team can appreciate. Really excellent stuff! Keep up the great blogging work.

Zach Jones said...

Hey -- I just discovered the link to this blog on Rob Neyer's ESPN page and it has instantly rocketed to the top of my bookmarks list. Thanks so much for taking the time to do it.

dave said...

I know this is totally of subject but are any teams pursuing Brian Giles?

Paul Reams said...

I don't think that you should be disappointed by the lack of Headley questions. We're all excited to see him play and I haven't talked to any fans who aren't glad that he's with the big club. I'm glad that you guys allowed him to get hot at AAA before getting the call.

Also, as a former NYC resident, I'm curious about your favorite NY restaurant. I'd recommend that you visit Peter Luger's in Brooklyn (and have Sandy Alderson or KT buy diner). Best steak in the country!

axion said...

Why did Huber get sent down instead of some of the other guys that were "on the bubble?"

Joe Bost said...

Mr. DePodesta,

Do the Padres have any plans to give Chase Headley the type of a contract that Evan Longoria received only 23 at-bats into his big league career. Do you think that type of contract is good for a team like the Padres that play in a relatively small baseball market.

Eli Cash said...

I am sure that the Padres have some sort of a regression model to predict a minor league players stats when he comes to the majors. If so, can you give us an idea of how Headley projects (maybe compared to another player) and also what variables have the highest statistical significance?

Tangotiger said...

If I got my numbers right, the fewest service days for super2s threshhold in the last several years was 131 days. Upton and Shields were in the 120s. Longoria just missed the 172 day service time to get in his full year this year. (All Rays players.) Why can't teams honestly say that they are clock-watching? And, what is your personal opinion about this?

Unknown said...

Which is it? Can Headley take the pressure or does he need to be sheltered from the pressure?

Gaslamp Ballers need to know

Jeff Landset said...

Hey Paul,

was there any thought behind bringing him up to play in Yankee Stadium? You have to admit it's a bit intimidating for a young guy like him, did that factor into the decision at all, either positively or negatively

Jason said...


What do you think is the balance between protecting a guy's psyche and having him play at a high level, perhaps even higher than he's really ready for and struggle, even if he might learn something.

For example, if you have a good player at AAA, wouldn't it, from a logical perspective, be better if he could play the next two weeks in the Majors, where he might learn something (and you might learn something about him), even if he struggles, than to spend those two weeks at AAA, repeating what he's already done? I understand the need to build confidence, but it seems like such a nebulous, unquantifiable factor.

Unknown said...

Will you treat Headley the way the Orioles treated Nick Markakis in his rookie year and let him hit in the low .200s until he "figures it out"?

Also, doesn't it make it easier to develop players at the big league level when there isn't the added pressure of a playoff run?

Anonymous said...


look at the stats and watch the games and you would realize the kouz has been one of the better defensive 3rd baseman in the game this year.

Chris said...

Kouz's defense isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be. In fact, he is above average so far this year:

His RZR of .779 is first in the majors among qualified third basemen, and his Rate, which was so far below the average in '07, is now at 109. He's already earned +5 FRAA, and thanks to this he has almost matched last year's WARP total already.

DesertPadre said...

Hey Paul

In my never ending quest to try to somewhat understand waivers,outrighting, options and the likes, I was curious how Justin Huber was outrighted to AAA without clearing waivers...

I thought in order to outright a player who was out of options off the 40 man roster, he would have to first clear waivers....Or did he clear waivers and I just missed that part of the transaction?

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure Huber had previously cleared waivers earlier in the month and that's why he was the one sent down.

Paul DePodesta said...

Well, a lot of what I had hoped has already happened - many of you are answering each other's questions. There's a lot of knowledge out there, and it's great to see it come out like this.

The most common question so far has been about when we're going to lock up Headley to a long-term deal.

As one person has already written, every situation is unique. There is no doubt, however, that as an organization we've tried to be aggressive in signing our young core players to long-term deals. Just last year we signed Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, and Jake Peavy to long deals (Peavy's was an extension to a pre-existing long-term deal). Furthermore, this winter we were able to sign Khalil to a multi-year deal.

For the purposes of this discussion, Adrian and CY are the most relevant (and Jake's old contract) as they were players that we signed throughout their arbitration years. I expect that we'll continue that process with other young core players as they establish themselves on our club. I certainly hope Chase becomes one of those guys.

Though these deals can present a burden to the signing club (guaranteed contract regardless of performance, injury, a change in the market, and no need to do it until free agency), doing it for the right players can make a lot of sense. Remember, just because a player doesn't sign long-term doesn't mean that he's leaving any time soon. Players aren't eligible for free agency until they've logged six full years of Major League service.

Back in the mid-90's the Indians were the innovators who signed up a bunch of their young players, won a string of Division Championships, and sold out the stadium every night for years. Consequently, a bunch of other teams starting signing their young players to long deals as well hoping for the same outcome. The rub was that the names of the Indians' players were Thome, Ramirez, Lofton, Belle, Colon, etc. Nobody else had the same collection of talent.

In Oakland we used a similar tactic and were able to sign Giambi, Grieve, Hudson, Mulder, Chavez, Zito, Tejada, Hernandez, etc., which I'm sure helped us keep them together as long as we did, but it didn't work out to the club's benefit in every situation.

The new wave is to do even longer deals - deals that can go seven years or more. I don't have much (or any) experience with those, but the principle invovled is the sam - it still comes down to doing it for the right guys.

Paul DePodesta said...

There have also been a bunch of questions that end in: Why New York?

As I said in the original post, there is no perfect time. The flexibility of the DH during these games definitely helped, though when Hairston and Kouz went down the circumstances were suddenly different. As far as Cleveland is concerned, we were facing three lefties in a row (Sowers, Lee, and Sabathis). Though Chase is a switch-hitter, he has generally been stronger as a LHH throughout his pro career. Further, we do like Huber against LHP, and as it turned out he played well in the two games he started in Cleveland.

Paul DePodesta said...


The live chat will happen at some point. I'm not sure exactly when, and I have to figure out how to set it up, but it'll happen.

Paul DePodesta said...

I have one other quick note about bringing Headley to New York's potentially intimidating atmosphere. Remember, this isn't Chase's first rodeo. He was in the big leagues last year, first as the starting 3B in Wrigley Field. His last appearance of the season was as a pinch hitter in the 13th inning of Game #163 (and he got a knock).

Melvin Nieves said...

@ Patrick

I presume that if the team put stock in OBP and hitting above all else, we'd might be watching a certain Jack Cust put up ridiculous 145 OPS+es for the Padres in left. (He's been playing there in Oakland)

As for McAnulty's baserunning blunder, perhaps it had something to do with Bud Black's professed "aggressive" strategy of sending big slow players to certain death on the basepaths ;). Of course this is just speculation on my part.

(see the sac bunt for more details [I hope it's ok to post links])

field39 said...


Are you willing/able, to comment on Dykstra?

thank you

Didi Tee said...

Is Bryan Myrow's time pretty much ran out already to be in the major league? Too old, no position to put him in? Any chance to trade him for some chips? Just wondering since he's been hitting like crazy in AAA for a couple of seasons now.

thanks, Paul. And Chase hit a HR in Yankees Stadium. Sweet.

Jason @ IIATMS said...


I truly appreciate this accessability and transparency. It's hopefully the start of a trend that puts the diehards in closer contact with the decision-makers.

Re: Headley...how do you help him manage expecations? With the crazy starts that Jay Bruce, Longoria, Braun, etc., have had, what if he's merely "very good". I'd imagine a guy like Headley's got a boatload of confidence anyways, but how do you handle the psychological side of dealing with players and adversity?

Unknown said...


General question about your recent draftees who are unsigned. Just generally, how frequently are you in contact with their advisors? Is the delay in signing usually over contract details, or because players just aren't sure whether they want to sign or go to college (or back to college)? When you draft college players that make it to the CWS (Adam Zornes, and the others), are you in contact with their advisors while they are still playing, or do you generally just leave them alone until their season is finished?

Last question - did you see Zornes take a curveball to the face on Sunday? Ouch.

RotoJeff said...

How candid are you allowed to be regarding financial motives? I think it would make a lot of sense to ensure that Headley doesn't become super-two eligible, but I don't think I've ever see a team outright admit that as their motivation to wait on calling up a player.

Eric Clark said...

Hey Paul,

Thanks for the info on Chase. I can't help but think that there's more to the story than "we just felt like it was the right time" but I guess if the door to every management meeting was wide open the room would get awfully crowded.

I thought that the front office put itself in a bit of a lose-lose situation by waiting so long to bring him up without explaining to the fans exactly what the wait was for.

When Headley hit his first homerun last night, I knew exactly what I'd see in the Padres forum (on another site) this morning -- that management waited too long and we could have used this hitting all along. Sure enough, it was there. Conversely, had Headley come up and struggled right away (especially in Yankee Stadium) it also would have looked like a poor decision to bring him up now.

If someone had come forward with an explanation over the past 6-8 weeks and said, "he needs more experience in left field", or "we want to be smart about his contract", the frustration amongst fans could have been mostly subverted. Instead, because fans were sort of left in the dark, they're looking for reasons to support why he should have been called up long ago, and why management blew the decision.

I understand that baseball teams aren't run by popular vote, but by the decisions of executives who are highly skilled in what they do. However, if the fans at least had some idea why they had to wait so long to see him come up, even if they didn't agree with the reasoning, at least it'd quell some of the angst.

Keep the great posts coming!

Jeff Shelby said...

"Remember, this isn't Chase's first rodeo."

Paul - I completely respect your response here - all the reasons you give indicate that Headley should be able to handle the pressure of making his debut (this year) in NY. Makes perfect sense to me.

The problem for me with that statement, though, is that its at complete odds with what Kevin Towers has said over the last month and a half or so. He has repeatedly made reference to the fact that the organization didn't want to put Headley in a situation where the pressure would be too great.

I understand that there are underlying aspects to calling him up that probably aren't appropriate to discuss in an open public forum or with the media. But those kind of contradictory statements are really frustrating to me as a fan.

That said - I'm glad Headley's up.

Paul DePodesta said...

jeff shelby,

I appreciate your comment.

Though it might seem so, my statement is really not at complete odds with what KT had been saying for a while now. I was addressing the issue of Chase playing his first three games this year in Yankee Stadium. KT has been speaking on a much broader level - he was saying that we didn't want Chase to feel (and be perceived) as though he was the answer to all of our problems. Calling Chase in the midst of our slide back in May could have created that situation.

Again, thanks for the comment.

Jeff Shelby said...

Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification.

Howard Lynch said...

My experience has been counter to eric's ... since the end of spring training, I have read quotes from Padre FO members consistently stating that the primary reason for Chase Headley to be playing at the AAA level was to get reps in the OF ... as well as overall development (ie. he hadn't yet played much above the AA-level) ... and it's my experience that they have been as clear as can be that they have also factored in the financial ramifications of the timing of his callup ... and most recently I have read many quotes about not wanting to inject Chase into the pressures of a club strugging very much to score runs and win games.

Recent improvements in the Padres performance on the field ... in Chase's steady play at AAA ... and turning of a few pages on the calendar make this a very appropriate time for the callup.

The sources for my information have primarily been Ducksnorts.com, MadFriars.com, Corey Brock's writing at mlb.com, the Friar John blog at mlb.com, and the San Diego Union Tribune's coverage of the Padres (game stories + columns + blogs). And I know of several other good blogs with local views on the Padres, and I frequent both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America for national views on the Padres.

I don't live in SD, so I don't listen to the game broadcasts nor the interviews with players and FO folks on the talk-radio shows.

T.J. Merritt said...

Mr. Podesta,

I just found your blog and am excited about being able to track the Padres in such an in depth way.
In reading "Calling Up Headley" my mind wandered a bit, thinking about the confidence level that a relief pitcher needs to make it as a starter. Is there a big jump that needs to take place? Do pitchers gain a lot of confidence in the bullpen that they may not get as the 7th or 8th starter sitting at AAA?
I'm wondering because there have been a few good relievers who made the jump to starting this year that have found success (ie. Justin Duchscherer, Chad Billingsley, Ryan Dempster, Jonathan Sanchez, etc.)? Is there something to be said for getting someone onto the scene, getting experience and having coaches monitor their situations closely (at the Major League level) so they have the best chance for success?

Max said...

The question I'm most curious about that I don't think you've answered is whether Headley stays at third and Kouz moves to the outfield. That switch seems more logical than Headley in the outfield due to his defensive abilities at third. I know he's played at third the last few days, but will this be a permanent move?

Paul DePodesta said...


Headley has been playing 3B because Kouz hurt his back in New York. The reason that Chase has been playing in the OF this year instead of Kouz is that our people felt that he would likely be the better OF between the two players. Further, Kouz has actually been quite good at 3B (certainly better than is generally recognized). Our goal is to have them both in the lineup at the same time.