Rumors started flying this morning that the Phillies might be nearing a contract extension with Chase Utley. Is this a wise move for the organization? What combination of years-and-dollars would you be comfortable with the Phillies offering Utley?
Jon Nisula: A Chase Utley extension would make sense from Ruben Amaro Jr.’s perspective, but I don’t think it would be right for the club. From Amaro’s point of view, re-signing Utley would mean keeping around the biggest fan favorite and one of the better 2B’s in the league for a few more years. It would do a lot for the PR of the club. But this team needs to rebuild to get back to being perennial contenders, and if trading Utley right now could mean a chance at bringing in the next Jimmy Rollins, that’s the move that’s best for the club.
Pat Gallen: I think it is a wise move, especially knowing that Ruben Amaro will never be a full seller. As our guy Ryan Dinger pointed out on twitter, Utley, if he qualified, would be 5th in baseball among second basemen with a 3.2 WAR. The guy can still flat out play. The hard part is what to offer.
If you re-up Utley, I think you have to trade Jimmy Rollins. You can’t have 3/4 of your infield as aging, breaking-down players making $10 million-plus each. Utley/Howard or Rollins/Howard is enough. That said, I cannot give Utley a third year guarantee. I go 2 years, $32 million with a $10 million vesting option based on plate appearances and not ending up on the DL, similar to what they gave Rollins. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Amaro has gone overboard on the extra year on deals with several aging players. Now is the time to stay away from that. But overall, bringing Utley back is not a bad thing, provided the price is right.
Ryan Dinger: I’m with Pat on bringing back Utley. The options at 2B around the league are barren and the Phillies don’t have much in MLB-ready talent in the system set to takeover the helm at the second sack. Hernandez might be close, but the team’s willingness to try him at other positions tells me they forecast him as more of a utility player at this point. Some have mentioned that the Phils could acquire a young second baseman in trading Utley. To that, I ask: Why would a team with a second baseman close to ready for everyday big league action trade for someone like Utley? It doesn’t add up.
In terms of what Utley should be offered, I’m more concerned with the years than the average annual value of the contract. As has been reported, the Phils are close on a 3 year/$45M extension for The Man. While that deal is agreeable for me, given Utley’s aforementioned value and the fact that it doesn’t go overboard on years, I’d prefer a deal more along the lines of two years, $35M. In that instance, Utley gets more money upfront, but the team isn’t tied to him and his degenerative knees for too long. The two-year commitment may be wishful thinking on my end, however.
Don McGettigan: Bringing Utley back only makes sense if you truly think you can compete for a World Series title within the time you’d have him under contract, which I don’t think is realistic. This organization seems to lack is a clear blueprint for the future; they went into the 2013 season relying on hope, that somehow their aging core would all perform at-or-above their career averages, and some of the young guys would go above-and-beyond what was expected. It wasn’t a bad plan really, with so many dollars already committed; it made sense to try Michael Young, Delmon Young, etc. instead of committing major dollars to some of the top free agents this past offseason. But it hasn’t worked as expected and resigning Utley (or Carlos Ruiz, or Roy Halladay) means that the 2014 roster will likely be another patch-job. It will leave the Phillies with a .500-ish team, no real influx of young talent into the lightly-regarded farm system, and this time next year the Phillies will be no better, no worse than they are right now.
If they do offer Utley an extension, I wouldn’t go beyond 2 years guaranteed. If Utley would rather test the Free Agent market instead of taking $30M or so guaranteed from the Phillies, they need to know that prior to the trade deadline, so this chatter makes sense…they need to know where he stands (on those deteriorating knees).
Jay Floyd: It will take me exactly two words to explain why re-signing Chase Utley is a bad idea for the Phillies. Cesar Hernandez. The Phils have a 23-year-old Venezuelan born Triple-A All-Star who is ready for the big leagues at Chase Utley’s position. Hernandez, who is batting .310 with two homers and 29 steals in 86 games for Lehigh Valley this year, has the skills and ability to be a starter at the big league level.
The Phillies can’t hold on to all of their aging stars. With Ryan Howard locked in with an unmovable contract and Jimmy Rollins slated to be around at a fair price, it’s the Utleys and the Ruiz’s that will allow the Phils to trim some payroll while getting younger and improving for the future.
Eric Seidman: This is tricky for me. I love Chase Utley, but I don’t really see the point of guaranteeing an injury-prone player $15 million per year for three seasons so the team can go 78-84. On the other hand, he is still worth 3/$45 even as he misses games, and the Phillies really don’t have an answer for the position if he were to leave. At this stage, Utley might benefit the Phillies more as a trade chip than anything else, given how many teams are still technically in the playoff race and how much of a boost he would provide. I would prefer to have him play out the season and for the Phillies to give him the qualifying offer. If he returns, Utley at 1/$13 is fantastic. If he doesn’t, the Phillies get a much needed draft pick. As much as I love the guy, I don’t know that the team needs to guarantee him three years at this stage of his career and in this phase of the organization.