The Phillies will probably be trading star second baseman Chase Utley here in the next few weeks.
The 36-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season. Due to a recent hot stretch since a return from the disabled list, many teams are showing interest in Utley, including the Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Cubs, and possibly Astros.
As much as the Phillies have shown the need and willingness to rebuild, I’m not sure dealing one of the greatest players in their franchise history is the smartest move for them.
First off, Utley’s payroll obligations already limit the type of return they could get for him. He’s owed more than $6 million between contracts throughout the rest of the season and a $2 million buyout on a team option at the end of the year.
The only scenario where the Phillies could even get a prospect for Utley that is good enough to make a real impact at the big league level is through taking on most, or even all, of his salary. The Philadelphia market size will allow them to do that and they’ve already shown that they will do that in taking on a good chunk of Cole Hamels’ deal in the trade with the Texas Rangers and all of Matt Harrison’s deal in the same swap.
So, say the Phillies do decide to take on $4 million or $5 million or even all of Utley’s salary. The question now becomes: Does a team really want to give up a Top-20 or Top-25 prospect just to get six weeks of Utley? As each day passes, each team has fewer regular season games left, and is closer to seeing where they will stand at the end of the year.
Sure, Utley is an add for the postseason, as well. That’s where he will provide the most value. And it might not even come via his performance. Utley is well respected around the game as a “true professional” and will add clubhouse leadership. While this cannot be seen on the back of baseball cards, it is definitely something that will go a long way for the team acquiring him.
Which is why he's a good fit for the Cubs, where he might be able to fix Starlin Castro (although, that might be a little too farfetched), but could provide postseason experience to a team that’s oldest infielder is 26-year-old Anthony Rizzo (if you include Castro).
But Utley could do exactly the same thing back in Philadelphia. They are rebuilding, but they could still use a mentor and a leader for their increasingly younger team. As they continue to move veterans out of Philly, they need to realize that the guys left need someone to provide leadership, to help them if they happen to be in a slump.
Utley doesn’t want to leave Philadelphia. But should the team really want him to go?