Anytime a young player makes his way toward his first crack at free agency, there is no doubt a sense of urgency about getting a big deal done.
San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley finds himself in that very situation right now, just a year away from free agency.
Headley has had a strong start to his career, and his productivity peaked this past season to the tune of 31 home runs and a league-leading 115 RBI.
He's seen his on-base and slugging percentages increase in each of the past three seasons and has rounded out his game with more solid play in the field.
All of that would seemingly be enough for the San Diego Padres to take advantage of an opportunity to get a head start on signing their lone star to a long-term deal that could help set the team in the right direction of a rebuilding process.
The team did avoid arbitration with Headley in agreeing to a one-year deal worth $8.6 million, but that clearly isn't what the third baseman had in mind (via the San Diego Union-Tribune):
“We talked about a long-term contract briefly at the start of these negotiations. It was a quick discussion. We weren’t on the same page right from the start. This close to free agency, it has to be a good deal for us. You can’t sacrifice what’s fair."
If Headley starts off the 2013 season where he left off, his price will no doubt continue to soar, potentially pricing the Padres out of the picture in a long-term deal.
This close to the start of the season it's seemingly unlikely that a trade would get done during spring training, but if his free-agent value increases, his trade value would go in the same direction.
In a league chock full of third baseman, there may not be many teams eager to jump at the opportunity to dump top prospects, but the notion of having Headley in the hot corner is something worth looking into.
The Minnesota Twins could be a potential destination for Headley if it comes to this, as they're heading into spring training with a less-than-consistent option in Trevor Plouffe.
Luckily for Plouffe, he can maneuver around the infield if necessary and has spent plenty of time in the outfield as well.
There's also the fact that the Twins have the best power-hitting prospect in baseball in third baseman Miguel Sano; however, his inability to field consistently could mean a move to first base, a place he'd fit in with Justin Morneau in the final year of his deal with the Twins.
Perhaps the most likely landing spot for Headley, however, is Yankee Stadium, where the Bronx Bombers have already had interest in the third baseman as recently as last summer.
With the situation surrounding Alex Rodriguez's future in New York seemingly changing by the minute, the Yankees would no doubt love to secure another long-term option at the position.
Rodriguez is still owed over $100 million before his contract expires, but reports have surfaced this week that the team is looking at options to possibly void his contract amid the connections to PED injections at a clinic in south Florida.
Ridding themselves of the contract is certainly an uphill battle, and even though earlier this week it was mentioned that he may be working on a retirement package, A-Rod quickly refuted that claim (via the New York Daily News, h/t NESN).
Nobody expects that a trade would be imminent, but with the possibility of a free-agent battle looming next winter, that could change at any moment.