So we’ve gotten to the point of the 2013 season where trading Chase Utley, perhaps the most popular Philadelphia Phillie in the team’s entire history, is actually a thing that may happen.
The wails from the city’s youth will be tremendous. Black holes may form. The space-time continuum could be irrevocably breached.
Frankly, we could all die here, people.
“He’s been an iconic player for us,” general manager Ruben Amaro said Friday. “My intention would be to keep him in our uniform for the rest of his career, if possible.
“I kind of view Chase as a Phillie for life. That’s my hope.”
Then on Sunday, Amaro seemed to change course a bit in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News.
“I think I’ve expressed it to Chase and I’ve said it publicly, we feel like he’s a Phillie for life,” Amaro said. “My job, however, is to make sure the viability of the organization is the most important element. Even though he might be the most popular player, if there are things we have to do with some of these popular players that are going to make our club better, then we have to keep our minds open.”
Uh oh, y’all. Stuff’s gettin’ REAL.
At 9 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East and 7 1/2 games from a wild card spot, the Phillies are approaching the point of no return. They can’t sustain any winning streaks and are a maddeningly inconsistent ballclub. Trading away veteran players, especially veterans with expiring contracts, is becoming more of a reality with each passing day. And one of the veterans with an expiring contract is Chase.
Remember, Chase Utley loves dogs. He said a profanity on live television. And after missing a month due to a strained oblique, Utley is hitting .284/.348/.517 for an OPS of .866 with 11 HRs in 224 PAs.
There’s an awful lot to love.
However, Amaro, and the fans, have to be realists. They have to look on this baseball team as the wounded animal it is and blow its brains out so that it can’t suffer anymore.
But is trading Utley necessarily something the Phillies must do? Ruben Amaro actually has three options.
1. The Phillies can sell him at the deadline this month and try to get the best package of prospects in return for him. There are plenty of teams in need of a second baseman or first baseman (Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Giants and Royals among others) that could use a player like Chase.
Is it possible one of those teams could give up one or two players that are ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball? If a team is willing to go that far for the Phillies, it would not only bolster a weak farm system, it would also provide more incentive for Amaro NOT to trade Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon. A good haul in return for Utley makes trading other pieces not as necessary.
Plus, the Phils would be receiving something of great value for someone who may not be around next year. The Phils could strike now, while Utley is swinging the bat well (he’s hitting .326 with an OPS of 1.057 and 4 HRs in the 10 games since returning from the DL), and maximize his value.
Not only that, they could even re-sign him in the offseason as a free agent if they wanted. Trading him now doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to him forever.
2. The Phillies could sign him to a contract extension now, before the season is over, for something in the neighborhood of what Carlos Beltran received from St. Louis a couple years ago (as mentioned by the Philadelphia Daily News’ Ryan Lawrence this morning). Something like a two-year, $26 million deal wouldn’t be a bad contract for the Phils, or Utley.
The Phillies would then have Utley for another two years, perhaps allowing him to finish out his career with the Phils. Of course, the Phillies run the risk of Utley’s knees once again becoming a problem, or some other injury popping up and knocking him out for a month, like the oblique injury he suffered last month.
But the Phils would score a big PR hit with that move and continue to give fans a reason to come out to the ballpark.
3. The Phillies could let him play out the season, make him a qualifying one-year offer after the season is over, then watch as he either signs the offer and comes back for another year, or the Phillies pick up a draft pick if someone else signs him.
If Utley signs the offer, the two sides could then still negotiate an extension, or simply play out the 2014 season on that deal. If he doesn’t, the Phils get a pick.
The drawback to that scenario is that the Phillies would be the unknown of a draft pick, presumably someone with a “high ceiling” out of high school. By trading him now, they’d be able to get a prospect or two with a minor league track record. The prospects would be players who would be able to help the team a little sooner, who were closer to the Major League level, with a history of minor league data that could make them a BIT more of a sure thing.
Although as we all know, prospects, even highly ranked ones, are never a sure thing.
Those are the three scenarios. Which one will Amaro choose? Which one is best for the Phillies?
Frankly, the Phillies would probably benefit best, in terms of 2014 and beyond, by trading Utley now for a top flight prospect pr twp. It should be noted, however, that if Amaro cannot get a top 100 prospect in the deal, he SHOULD NOT trade Utley under any circumstances. However, Utley is playing so well right now, and at such a premium position, that you would think Amaro could get a couple higher-end prospects in a deal.
However, my heart would also be full if he re-signed with the Phils. Utley is one of my all-time favorites too, and I’d love to see him play his whole career in Philadelphia. After all, baseball is supposed to be fun and Utley makes baseball fun to watch.
When he’s healthy. And that’s the big question mark. Will Utley stay healthy?
Regardless, suddenly trading Chase Utley is a thing that could actually happen.
And if it does, our world may never be the same again.