End of the Phillies Chase?

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For franchise icon Chase Utley, his recent return to the team after a two-month stay on the Disabled List could be short-lived. Not because of another injury, or poor performance. Instead, Utley could leave via a trade that would send him to play with new teammates and for a new manager in a foreign uniform.

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The 36-year-old returned from the DL for last weekend’s series against the Padres and looked strong, recording four hits, three of them doubles, in 10 at-bats with two RBIs.

In attendance was a scout from the San Francisco Giants, and the defending World Series champs appear to be interested in making a trade for the 2nd baseman as the club prepares to enter the regular season’s final stretch. The Giants trail the rival Dodgers by 2.5 games in the NL West, and trail the NL Wildcard race by 3.5 games.

The Phillies reportedly placed Utley on waivers on Sunday, which would mean that his waiver period would come to an end today. Once it expires, Utley will be eligible to be traded to any team, albeit with his permission based on the terms of his contract.

For the Giants, a move for Utley makes sense, especially due to the fact that at just 259 plate appearances, the veteran will likely not reach the 500 appearances needed for his $15 million option in 2016 to vest. He would thus be a rental, added for the purposes of going for it now, with no future commitment beyond this season.

It was originally thought that Utley would not be brought in start for the Giants, but would be a solid pinch-hitting option off the bench, and could play a little second and first base to give their starters some days of rest. However, a bad back has forced their regular starter, Joe Panik, to the 15-day DL, possibly making San Francisco even more interested in a deal.

This season has been one to forget for Utley, to say the least. He batted just .179 in 218 at-bats—the worst average among qualifying hitters—and an ankle injury landed him on the DL.

Those first poor couple of months came on the heels of an impressive spring training in which Utley batted .412 in albeit a small sample size of just 34 at-bats. Nonetheless, the 13-year veteran was looking primed for another solid season in Phillies pinstripes at the advanced age of 36 years.

Utley never figured it out through the first two-plus months of the season, however, aside from a multi-hit game here and there, highlighted by a game at Citi Field where he slugged two homers and drove in three runs in a 5-6 losing effort.

Jul 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Utley (26) hands a plaque to retired left fielder

Pat Burrell

, honored as the 37th inductee into the Phillies Wall of Fame, as

Darren Daulton

looks on before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

A hard worker, Utley persevered, and solved a flaw in his swing that was caused by his ankle injury, proving that even after 13 years in the Majors, there’s always room for improvement.

If the Giants, or any of the reportedly interested teams, decide to pull the trigger on a trade for Utley, they’ll be getting a guy who will work his tail off night-in and night-out no matter the circumstances.

The suspected teams that have been keeping tabs on Utley: the Cubs, Angels, and Yankees, are all contenders, which could give the blue-collar ball player even more incentive to keep working, and keep improving.

Despite his struggles this season, Utley’s resume speaks for itself. He is a career .281 hitter, a 4-time Silver Slugger award winner, 6-time NL All-Star, and a key figure on a World Series champion.

Interested teams should obviously look past his numbers this season, and his age, and find assurance in those traits that they are still getting a player who, even years  separated from his “prime,” can still bring quality baseball to a clubhouse and lineup.

For Utley, the chance to play for a contender once again has to be enticing, especially for the Giants, who reside close to the Utley family’s offseason home.

While it would be fantastic to go to a World Series contender and be close to your home town, the thought of leaving the Phillies, the organization that drafted him and the only organization he has ever known, would certainly weigh heavily on him.

During his tenure, Utley has not only become a fan favorite; he has become a Philadelphia icon; a player that every prospective, young baseball player has emulated his or her game after. His gritty, hard-nosed style of play has forever placed him firmly in the hearts of every Phillies fan, and knowing that he would leave all that behind has to pull at his heartstrings.

Last month, the Phillies and their fans said goodbye to another Phillies icon in Cole Hamels, another key part of the team that brought Philadelphia its first World Series Championship in 28 years. Fans were able to watch their golden boy deliver one last emotional farewell to the organization that drafted him, and the only team he’s ever known. How many babies born in the Philly area over the last half-decade or so do you think have been named Cole or Chase?

Not even a month later, and the Phillies may lose another cornerstone, a player who embodies everything Philadelphia fans cherish in their athletes. If Utley is traded before the August 31st waiver deadline, it will be a somber day for the city of Philadelphia and the Phillies organization. It will be a day where fans of all ages, from young kids to googly-eyed women to grown men with Chase Utley man-crushes, will mourn the loss of their hero.

As Utley recorded his two-run pinch-hit double in the 8th inning of Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Padres, the usually stoic Chase revealed an unmistakable smile as his teammates congratulated him from the dugout.

While he seldom shows emotion, especially jubilation, Utley must know in the back of his mind that his days in Philadelphia are numbered. That should bring sadness, another emotion that Utley has seldom shown. After all, he isn’t a robot, even if he would like fans to believe the opposite.

So, Phillies fans, enjoy your iconic 2nd baseman while you still can. Any at-bat or game could be his last in the City of Brotherly Love, and in a Fightin’ Phils uniform. Believe me when I say this: you will miss him.

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