The Padres play in the game’s toughest ballpark for hitters and they entered the day ranked 26th of the 30 major league teams in runs scored, but they now have the NL RBI leader after Chase Headley hit a grand slam Sunday in an 8-2 win over the Diamondbacks.
Headley, whose previous career high in RBI was 64, moved past Ryan Braun into the league lead with 102 RBI. If he can hold on to it, he’d be just the second Padre to lead the league in RBI (Dave Winfield, 1979).
Headley is the 13th different Padre to amass 100 RBI in a season. Other than Adrian Gonzalez, who did it three times (100 in 2007, 119 in 2008 and 101 in 2010), no Padre had reached 100 RBI since Phil Nevin in 2004.
Today’s bomb was his 27th, so Headley also has a shot at becoming the 12th different Padre to reach 30 homers in a season. Gonzalez did that four times. Besides Gonzalez, the last two do it were Nevin and Ryan Klesko in 2001.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.