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Padres’ Chase Headley would look good in Cubs uniform

Chicago Cubs Vs San Diego Padres.  San Diego Padres No. 7 Chase Headley. Tuesday April 30 2013 I Phoby

Chicago Cubs Vs San Diego Padres. San Diego Padres No. 7 Chase Headley. Tuesday April 30, 2013 I Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:41AM

As the Cubs front office spends much of its rebuilding efforts trying to acquire pitching, another glaring area of need could grow into something too big to ignore if and when they turn a competitive corner in the next two years.

The answer to that need could be a guy sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Wrigley Field this week.

San Diego third baseman Chase Headley says he doesn’t want to speculate about his future address — especially when it comes to the persistent trade rumors that have him headed to any of a half-dozen other teams by the end of July.

But if he reaches free agency after next season, he doesn’t seem to be ruling out the North Side as a potential destination.

“Wrigley’s a special place. Chicago’s a special city,” he said before doubling home a run in San Diego’s 13-7 victory over the Cubs Tuesday night. “The enthusiasm, the atmosphere that you play in front of everyday is obviously something that would be attractive to a lot of players.”

After a breakout 2012 season, when he hit 31 homers with 115 RBI and won a Gold Glove, Headley moved to the top of the list of summer trade targets and next year’s pending free-agent list — in large part because of the extreme scarcity of his position.

“I understand what market value is,” he said when asked about that scarcity in relation to his potential as a free agent. “I’m not going to make a bad decision when I’ve played this long year to year. We’ll see where that ends up.”

The Cubs won’t comment on specific player personnel plans. But Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer knows Headley well as the former San Diego GM — well enough that Hoyer traded veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff after the 2009 season to open third base for Headley.

The Cubs aren’t likely to be players for Headley in any kind of deadline trades this year or next, no matter how much Hoyer might think of him. The Cubs don’t have the minor-league inventory, nor the desire to deal the top prospects it would take even if they did.

Depending what their competitive timeline looks like if Headley becomes a free agent — and his price — could put them in play at that point.

Some of that also depends on what minor-leaguers such as infielder Javy Baez do in the next 17 months.

The Cubs certainly know better than most how tough it is to find a major league third baseman these days — having whiffed on the free agent with the broken hand (Jeff Keppinger) before settling on a $2 million second-chance for Ian Stewart over the winter.

That’s worked so well this season that Luis Valbuena, a career .239-hitting second baseman, is the Cubs’ All-Star representative at third on this year’s National League ballot.

As Hoyer pointed out during the offseason process, “Right now we’re at a period of time where good offensive third basemen are hard to find.”

As if that point wasn’t painfully clear enough, Stewart rubbed it in Tuesday.

After another hitless game for Class AAA Iowa during his minor-league rehab assignment, the fully healed Stewart told the Des Moines Register: “I don’t think I’m ready [to return from the DL]. … Maybe three more games; hopefully, that’ll be enough to get me ready.”

Stewart is 4-for-40 at Iowa and a month into a $2 million contract that already looks more wasted than Lindsay Lohan in a squad car.

When his minor-league rehab time expires at the end of the week, he’s more likely to get optioned and stay in Iowa than get reinstated.

Meanwhile, take a good look at what a contender-quality, major-league third baseman looks like before Headley heads out of town Thursday night.

Headley, for one, seems to know where he fits in an under-represented market and he said he owed it to himself and other players, past and future, to consider that as a free agent.

“I do think that I’m a valuable player, whether it’s on this team or any other club,” he said. “Not that I’m going to hold anybody hostage by that, but I’m also going to make sure that I hold up my end of the bargain.”

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