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Ruben Amaro Hopes Chase Utley Is a Phillie for Life

Jul 2, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT

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While the Phillies sail into Pittsburgh for three games with the Pirates, trade winds are gusting back home. They must be getting strong, because even the heavy stuff is starting to get blown away.

Chase Utley figures to be one of the Phils’ most coveted pieces as the deadline approaches. A free agent at the end of the season, Bob Ford writes the time is now to move Utley in Tuesday’s Inquirer. There’s even a rumor circulating that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Utley’s hometown team, could have interest.

I’m sure plenty of teams would have some level of interest in a second baseman with an OPS of .866, so who exactly is beside the point. To trade Utley anywhere would be a polarizing decision.

He is the Phillies’ last sacred cow.

Nobody cares if mercenaries like Jonathan Papelbon or Michael Young go. As long as the price was right for Cliff Lee, most folks would understand. Jimmy Rollins has been an everyday player for the Fightins since 2001, but I doubt there would be much of an outcry from an occasionally under-appreciative fan base.

It’s probably fair to say none of the stars during this waning era of Phillies baseball ever achieved and maintained the kind of popularity across the board as Utley. Missing most of the previous two seasons and spring trainings with knee issues may have cut into his cache a little, but he remains the most universally beloved player inside that dugout.

At 34, Utley is proving he can still play, too. He’s already matched his home run total from the last two seasons with 11 – doing in 54 games what took 83 and 103 before – and he should surpass the 16 he bashed in 2010 as long as he stays healthy. His batting average is .284. We’ll see how Utley is holding up come September, but as of now it looks like he’s turned the clock back by three years.

Unfortunately the facts are Utley is not under contract beyond this season, and the Phillies continue to sink in the standings. It’s only natural for other teams to inquire about the second baseman’s availability.

Given the age, the medical history, the free agency, Ruben Amaro Jr. has to consider a future without Utley – although even the Phils’ general manager seems reluctant to do so. In an interview with CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler, Amaro put over the notion that the 11-year vereran could finish his career in red pinstripes.

“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.”

There are undoubtedly sentimental Phillies fans who would like to see that happen as well. The way he’s swinging the bat these days, it’s not difficult to convince yourself the organization could maybe squeeze a couple more campaigns out of Utley before he becomes a shell of his former self.

Another sect of followers would rather see the Phils embrace the rebuild. We hear it over and over again, that professional sports is a business, and executives can’t make decisions based on emotional attachment. Who knows how much longer Utley can perform at a high level.

Of course, somebody has to play second base next season. Is there a better option out there, whether it comes from in the farm system or elsewhere?

Is it important that Utley be able to finish his career in Philadelphia? Does he want to finish his career in Philadelphia, where the glory days of NL East titles and World Series runs are quickly disappearing? What kind of contract would it take to keep him?

These are all important questions, but when the phone starts ringing, they could all be trumped by one: “How much?”

>> Ruben Amaro: ‘I view Chase Utley as a Phillie for life’ [CBS]
>> Now is the time for Phillies to trade Utley [Inq]

  1. Pete D - Jul 2, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I like the “hold onto Utley, make 1-year qualifying offer and get a draft pick if he leaves” option. Trade everybody else.

    Reply
  2. Kevbo - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    I would go for that as well unless a very enticing offer came along from Boston or Detroit. Good prospects down there on their farms that could be up sooner rather than later.

    Reply
  3. BenE. - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    I wouldn’t mind Utley being traded if Amaro actually got a good return for what Utley is at this point in his career, which I have little faith in.

    Reply
    • BenE. - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      Meaning, little faith in Amaro getting that.

      Reply
  4. Philly Sports Guy - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    I think the Phillies should trade Lee, Young, D. Young, Ruiz, and Papelbon. If they get a decent offer for Rollins and Utley I would take that as well. Along with declining Halladay’s option this would free up to 92M for next year. I would also decline bringing back Lannan, Nix, and Mayberry, which would free up another 4M. As for replacements, we would definitely need to replace SP with at least one FA and perhaps some of the young arms we curently have and could get in some of the above deals. As for the bullpen I would sign a low end closer, and add some more arms via FA. I would also move KK to the bullpen, or, depending on what he gets through arbitration look to move him. Would love to see the Phils eat some of Howard’s contract, even perhaps half over the next 3 years just to move him to a team where he could DH, we shouldbe able to get something back in the deal as well. IF Howard gets moved, here is the defense for the rest of the year: 1B Ruf, 2B Hernandez, SS Galvis, 3B Asche, C Joseph, LF Brown, CF Revere, RF Mayberry. My rotation would be Hamels, Kendrick, Lannan, Petitbone, and Cloyd. Obviously if we received anyone that is close to or MLB ready, which we should because of the talent we are giving up, they they could take over the RF, or SP, or bullpen positions. After the season, depending on how the youngsters perform, the Phillies could fix those holes via free agency and hope that we can get back in contention. I know this is extreme but does anyone realistically think we are going to get any better going the way we are going? We are not one buyer trade away from contending in my opinion and age, injury, and poor decisions by management has put us in this mess.

    Reply
    • Auduboner - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Tommy Joseph?? He of the .210 average, now having a 1 for 20 in single A on “rehab”? He is two years away. There are better catching options down there than him.

      And Cloyd has sucked even worse si9nce being sent back down. The only real SP option down there is Ethan whatshisname. Don’t you look at the milb stats? Asche is hitting .320 for June, Ruf .301, but that Mikael kis they just promoted is hitting *.468* since being promoted! I would get a look at him ASAP. Some guys do okay coming direct from AA ball – Utley, e.g.

      Reply
      • Philly Sports Guy - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Obviously I haven’t looked at stats for awhile and agree the names that replace may be different.

    • Auduboner - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      But I wholeheartedly agree with the clean house strategy, just the pieces to be plugged in are different.

      Reply
  5. Andy Schreiber - Jul 2, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    I’m OK with trading Jimmy, Chooch, Papelbon, Lee, both Youngs, etc. At this point I wish it were possible to trade Howard. (It isn’t.)

    But if they trade Utley they had better get a great (not good) prospect or two in return. He is the heart & soul of this team and SHOULD be a Phillie for life.

    Reply
  6. BenE. - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    Reading all these great responses and suggestions the last couple weeks is only going to make me more pissed when Ruben f*cks it up.

    Reply
    • Charlie D - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:59 PM

      you meant to add the word “AGAIN” at the end of your post!

      Reply

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