Even with contract talks on hold, Padres don't plan to trade Headley

Chase Headley, a free agent after 2014, says he doesn't want to discuss contract during the season. (Getty Images)

Teams hoping to make a play for star Padres third baseman Chase Headley this summer might have to seek a backup plan.

While there’s been some early speculation about a trade for Headley since he recently said publicly that he wouldn’t discuss a contract extension during the season, people with ties to the team are saying it's "unlikely" that there will be a trade involving the Padres’ best player.

The Padres acknowledge they didn’t get very far in contract talks this winter, and while no figures have become public, it’s believed they were hoping to do a deal for south of $100 million -- no surprise considering their market size and spending history. It’s believed they were considering a five-year deal, at most, but it’s possible they were willing to go to something in the range of $75 million.

Headley’s side hasn’t said what it’s looking for either, but agents not involved suggest Ryan Zimmerman’s $100 million, six-year extension from a couple of springs ago should be viewed by the player as a baseline. Headley's agent, Casey Close, didn't return a message.

“Our first choice is to sign him,’’ Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said by phone.

Of course, a long-term contract isn’t likely to come immediately, as Headley announced he wouldn’t talk money during the season following new owner Ron Fowler’s eager-looking proclamation that they intend to start contract talks soon. Fowler said at the time that they were willing to give Headley the largest deal in Padres’ history, presumably meaning something more than Jake Peavy’s past $52 million, three-year deal.

With the clock ticking -- Headley is due to become a free agent after the 2014 season -- teams are sure to make a run at him this summer. The Pirates were said to have made an especially spirited effort last summer. The Indians, Dodgers and Diamondbacks were among several other teams to give it a shot -- to no avail.

“A couple teams tried pretty hard. But obviously we had a pretty high standard,’’ Byrnes said. “And obviously, we think even higher of him now.’’

Headley had a huge second half last year, hitting .308 with 23 home runs and a league-high 73 RBI, which enabled him to finish fifth in MVP voting even though the Padres weren’t a contender. He’s continued to play well this year after returning from a thumb injury that cost him a couple of weeks; he has four home runs, 12 RBI, a .298 average and an even higher OPS than he had last year (.912 compared to .875).

The Padres are a few games over .500 since the beginning of June last year, giving them hope for the future. They also have a decent group of pitchers under 27 years old, though several of them are still developing or working their way back from Tommy John surgery.

Anyway, Padres people see Headley as part of their future and believe the team has played well enough with the current crop that they aren’t eager to trade their star to obtain a prospect package.

“We can’t wait forever,’’ Byrnes said. “We have a group that’s trying to take it to the next level. And that’s what we’re hoping to do.’’

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