Much of the talk regarding players that could be on the move prior to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline has been surrounding pitchers. But when it comes to position players, the Phillies’ Chase Utley is maybe the one that will draw the most interest if he becomes available.
Utley is a bit past his prime, but provides a bit of power at second base – often a position held down by weak offensive players. His numbers aren’t what they once were, but Utley is still managing to hold his own. Coming into Monday night’s games, Utley ranked third among National League second basemen in home runs (11), third in walks (21), and fifth in runs batted in (30). Utley was also second in triples, third in stolen bases, and his .281 average would rank as third if he had enough at bats to qualify.
And speaking of those at bats, Utley’s offensive stats are even more impressive considering that he only has a little more than 220 at bats on the year, missing some time due to injury. Those totals would be significantly higher had he played the entire half season.
All of that said, Utley is 34 and on the downside of his career. He’s still playing at a high level, but has missed parts of the last three seasons due to injuries. Utley hasn’t played more than 120 games since 2009 and while there’s still some left in the tank, how much is really anybody’s guess.
Still, the second baseman is playing well this season and drawing a lot of interest on the trading block. The Phillies still aren’t quite sure if they’re going on a selling spree, but if they do, Utley could be hitting the road – and there are plenty of potential suitors.
The team most oft discussed is the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the weak National League West Division, L.A. is trying to make improvements to their club despite a subpar record. The team just added starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and I’d be surprised if they were finished tweaking the roster. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman noted last week that Los Angeles has been showing interest and as I wrote about at the time, that would make sense. And in fact, a National League executive said he’s 90% sure that Utley will end up in Dodger Blue when it’s all said and done.
Another club that could use help at second base is the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have a slew of options including Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, and Mark DeRosa, but none are impact players on Utley’s level. ESPN’s Buster Olney says Toronto would be interested in him if he’s available.
A surprise team in the mix? The Kansas City Royals. One American League executive said recently that the Royals could be a frontrunner to land him and the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo also says the Royals have discussed adding him.
A few more teams could be in the mix, too. The Yankees and Giants also sent scouts to his first game in late June when he returned from a stint on the disabled list. And leaning more on the speculation/‘hey this makes sense’ side, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs suggests that Utley would look great in an Oakland A’s uniform.
Utley has a $15 million price tag for this season so his prorated portion owed is fairly steep. But the good thing about a deal would be that he’s not tied into an expensive long-term contract. His asking price to re-sign won’t be much of a bargain in my opinion, but if the cost to acquire him isn’t too great, he may be worth the risk even as a rental player.
The question remains whether or not Philadelphia will be interested in dealing a staple of their club for the past decade. Even if the Phillies decide they can’t contend for the postseason, holding onto Utley and a few players such as Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard would provide a strong foundation for next year.
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