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Headley picks up where he left off with Padres

Third baseman a familiar face in camp after offseason trade
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For a moment Saturday morning, it felt as though Chase Headley never left.

Sure, the veteran third baseman was reporting to a new team after an offseason trade. But there was Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman greeting Headley with a wide smile and a hug. Cory Spangenberg did the same. Across the clubhouse were familiar lockers of former teammates Chris Young, Tyson Ross and Clayton Richard.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For a moment Saturday morning, it felt as though Chase Headley never left.

Sure, the veteran third baseman was reporting to a new team after an offseason trade. But there was Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman greeting Headley with a wide smile and a hug. Cory Spangenberg did the same. Across the clubhouse were familiar lockers of former teammates Chris Young, Tyson Ross and Clayton Richard.

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It was easy to forget it had been nearly four years since Headley last donned a Padres cap.

"It's surreal," Headley said. "Obviously when you leave, you never expect to be back. It's fun, and good to see familiar faces."

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The Padres swung for Headley at the Winter Meetings, landing him along with right-hander Bryan Mitchell for Jabari Blash (who didn't factor into the Padres' outfield plans).

In reality, the acquisition cost was Headley's contract. The Yankees, looking to save a bit of cash after acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, were open for business. The Padres swooped.

Video: Green discusses acquisition of Mitchell, Headley

The club landed Headley, whose one-year, $13 million contract is by no means burdensome. And they managed to pry Mitchell away from New York, having pursued him as a rotation option for the past two years.

Of course, any savvy fan could look at Headley's contract and notice it doesn't quite mesh with the Padres' direction. They're building for the future, and Headley, who turns 34 in May, has a year remaining.

When manager Andy Green first spoke with Headley, he made it clear he was excited to have him on board. But there was a distinct possibility Headley would be traded again.

"I appreciated the honesty," Headley said. "As a player, you understand how the game works. But it's nice to have someone tell you straight up what's going on."

In 2014, the Padres traded Headley, then a pending free agent, to New York. Yangervis Solarte came back in return, marking the first time their careers intertwined.

Following December's Winter Meetings, the Padres, with a sudden glut of infielders, actively searched for another deal. It was always unlikely they'd trade affordable youngsters Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje.

"The way the roster was constructed, either [Headley] or Solarte was going to be moved," said Green. "Once Solarte was moved, we called [Headley] and said we're going into camp with the expectation you're going to be at third base."

The possibility remains that Headley will be dealt -- either during Spring Training or at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. But for now, he gives a boost to an offense that finished last in the Majors in on-base percentage. With New York last year, Headley reached at a .352 clip. That would have been the best mark on the 2017 Padres.

Green also touted Headley as a high-IQ ballplayer, noting that Headley's presence will be felt on a young roster. Ross concurred, pointing to Headley's impact during his last stint with San Diego.

"When I was first here in '13, he was a real veteran clubhouse leader," Ross said. "I'm sure he only gained wisdom in New York. It's exciting to have him back."

Headley was working out in Nashville when his agent phoned him with news of the trade. It shocked him, but not in a bad way.

"I didn't see it coming, honestly," Headley said. "But I had a lot of great times in San Diego, a lot of good memories. I love the city. If I was going to leave New York, I was excited to come back to San Diego."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Chase Headley