With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position by position. Today, we preview San Diego's third basemen.• Around the Horn series:Catcher | First base | Second base | ShortstopSAN DIEGO -- Enter Chase Headley, exit Yangervis Solarte.
With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position by position. Today, we preview San Diego's third basemen.
• Around the Horn series:Catcher | First base | Second base | Shortstop
SAN DIEGO -- Enter Chase Headley, exit Yangervis Solarte. But even after a busy offseason at the hot corner, many of the same questions linger for the Padres at third base.
General manager A.J. Preller traded for one veteran third baseman, and he dealt another. But the infield logjam remains, and it's worth asking how Headley, Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje and Christian Villanueva will split at-bats in 2018.
Those four players are set to compete for jobs at second and third base this spring. Headley and Villanueva feature as third basemen exclusively, while Asuaje will play only second. Spangenberg, who has gotten plenty of time at both spots, will move back and forth.
"The message has been very consistent all along: It's all about competition," said Preller. "At the third-base position, obviously there was the trade of Solarte, but that still leaves Cory Spangenberg, Chase and Christian Villanueva. Those are three real options for us, and I think it's going to be a competition to see who gets at-bats."
Headley, who came to the Padres along with right-hander Bryan Mitchell in a December trade with New York, is unquestionably the favorite. His .352 on-base percentage for the Yankees last season was higher than any other player on the roster. And he's easily the most experienced hitter of the bunch.
But there's still a possibility Headley could be moved by Opening Day. The Padres have made no secret that they're open to trading the 33-year-old switch-hitter. Headley has one year remaining on his contract, and his bat could certainly fit on a team looking to contend.
Headley's presence could go a long way toward deciding Villanueva's roster fate. The 26-year-old hit .296/.369/.528 for Triple-A El Paso last season, before a September callup which saw him bat .344 with four dingers in 12 games.
Villanueva would serve as a useful right-handed bat off the bench -- and as a backup at third. But it's hard to see how he fits on a roster with Headley, Spangenberg and Asuaje. (Then again, Spangenberg and Asuaje don't have their roster spots wrapped up, either -- though their experience gives them a leg up.)
It's been an eventful couple seasons for Spangenberg in the infield. He spent 2016 as a second baseman, then '17 as a third baseman. In '18, he'll almost certainly be asked to do a little of both -- filling the role vacated by Solarte.
In fact, shortly after Solarte was dealt to Toronto for a pair of prospects, Spangenberg checked in with the Padres to ask whether he should increase his offseason reps at second base. He was told he should.
All four would be favorites for the Opening Day roster -- except that none of the four can play shortstop. The Padres need a backup for Freddy Galvis there. And unless they're willing to carry seven infielders, one of their four options at second and third won't be in San Diego on March 29.
This spring will likely see a fierce battle to decide those roster spots.
Projected starter: Headley
Potential backups: Spangenberg, Villanueva
Top 30 prospects: No. 23 Hudson Potts, No. 29 Eguy Rosario
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.