Chase Utley’s future in Philadelphia has been in question for much of the past few months. The veteran second baseman has been a fixture in the Phillies lineup since he first debuted during the 2003 season, but with a spotty injury history and free agency approaching it had started to appear likely that the two sides could part at season’s end or even that the team could move Utley before Wednesday’s trade deadline. Now, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the two sides appear to have started talks about a contract extension for one of the organization’s most beloved assets.
Salisbury notes that the Phillies organization is generally tight-lipped when it comes to contract situations and that Utley himself tends to be on the private side, but he hears from sources that the two sides have been having discussions about an extension in recent weeks. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and Utley have even been spotted “huddling for private conversations” around the ballpark. Amaro wouldn’t confirm nor deny those talks, but Salisbury points to multiple signs that the two sides could be working out a deal:
- The Phillies have been marketing Utley heavily of late, particularly with a promotion scheduled for their next homestand – which falls after the trade deadline – in which they’ll hand out Utley posters. He does note that this may not mean much, as the team followed through with a Hunter Pence bobblehead giveaway even after trading the outfielder away last season.
- Utley will earn his 10/5 rights on August 22nd (10 years in the league, 5 with his current team) which would give him the right to veto a trade. If the team were convinced that they’d be losing him at season’s end, why wouldn’t they look to move him before his 10/5 rights kick in so that they don’t simply lose him for nothing? Under such a scenario, dealing him prior to the non-waiver trade deadline would make the most sense – both from an ease-of-completing-a-deal standpoint and for a maximum return. Salisbury has heard from multiple sources that the team is not actively shopping him at this point in time. (Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has confirmed from multiple opposing GMs that the Phillies are telling teams that Utley is “not available”.)
Utley is batting .274/.337/.498 in 312 PA on the year. He missed about a month with an oblique injury, but has otherwise been a steady piece of the Phillies lineup all season and could be primed to see his highest games played total since the 2009 season if he can remain healthy the rest of the year.
Predicting what a contract extension might look like for the 34 year old could be tough. Utley’s earned more than $15 Million in each of the past four seasons, but it seems tough to justify handing him that much money over the coming seasons given his injury history. He might be a big piece of the Philadelphia franchise, but he doesn’t produce at the same level as a Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, or Robinson Cano (at least, not anymore) and it seems unlikely that he’d top them in terms of average annual value. Perhaps a deal in the neighborhood of four years and $40 Million might be reasonable, but again it’s tough to gauge what kind of level the Phillies will look to secure him at.
Regardless of what a potential extension might look like, it seems clear that Utley won’t be traded and could be a Phillie for the foreseeable future.