The Philadelphia Phillies stood pat at the July 31st trade deadline, and many pundits felt this was a missed opportunity for the club to sell. They have a firm hold on last place in the National League East.
With an aging roster and a minor league system that is short on impact talent, a rebuild is in order. While they didn’t make any deals at the deadline, several Phillies players could be dealt in August.
One of those players is second baseman Chase Utley. The 35 year-old Utley is under contract for $15 million this season, and at least $10 million next season with $5 million kicking in if he spends fewer than 15 days on the DL with a knee injury.
In addition, there are vesting options for the next three seasons at $15 million if he reaches 500 plate appearances the prior year. Though Utley isn’t the offensive force that he was from 2007-09, he’s still a very good player.
Utley’s power numbers have declined, and he’s managed just nine home runs with a pedestrian .142 ISO. Overall though his .280/.345/.422 slash line comes out to a solid 112 wRC+. He plays strong defense and runs the bases well, and as a result he’s accumulated 3.5 fWAR this year.
ZiPS and Steamer each project slightly more than +1 fWAR over the remainder of the season. Age and injury history are concerns, but he’s played in almost every game this year, and he’s been above +3 fWAR every season since 2005, and that includes the 2012 season when injuries limited him to just 83 games.
The San Francisco Giants desperately need an upgrade at second base. They recently signed Dan Uggla, who has been a disaster over the past two seasons. Seven different players have started at second base for the Giants, and Brandon Hicks, who was designated for assignment in July, has the most fWAR with 0.3. Utley would be a big upgrade for a team that is trying to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers and avoid the wild card game.
The Toronto Blue Jays were widely criticized for not making a move at the deadline. With Brett Lawrie returning, they won’t have to play Steve Tolleson or Munenori Kawasaki quite so much, but Adam Lind is out at designated hitter, and Juan Francisco could move into more of a platoon role with Lawrie playing more third base when he comes back.
Utley would be a big addition for either of these teams. Furthermore, he’s not just a rental. $15 million is a very reasonable price for his 2015 season, and the following options won’t come into play unless he’s healthy and plays well enough to receive 500 plate appearances.
It appears that the Phillies have been difficult to deal with, but a reasonable asking price for Utley would be a good prospect and perhaps some filler. Chase Utley has been a mainstay with the Phillies, but the time has come to trade him to a contender and rebuild.