Over the weekend Chase Utley secured plans for the next chapter of his life. After getting hitched to the woman formerly known as Jen Cooper, he went and agreed to a 7-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies. The deal breaks down as follows: a $2 million signing bonus with salaries of $4.5 million 2007, $7.5 million in 2008, $11 million in 2009 and $15 million in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (not sure the specifics of the seventh year, but it seems another $15 million season). There are no reports of a no-trade clause, but having the contract backloaded at at least 3-years, $45 million will make it difficult to trade Chase if it ever comes to that – let’s hope not.
Chase’s agent, Arn Tellem (also CEO of SFX Sports Group) explained the move. "When the Phillies came to us with a multiyear deal of this length and magnitude, it made it very easy for Chase to accept, given that he loves Philadelphia, wanted to stay in Philadelphia and is hoping to retire in Philadelphia. He is excited about the team’s prospects and nucleus and feels they can be competitive for the term of this contract and beyond, He was very appreciative of the security this early in his career, and he was willing to give the Phillies a break in the free-agent years."
It is interesting to note that the Phillies approached Chase with the deal. We all knew a long-term deal has been in the works for the Phillies’ All-Star second baseman for the past year, but the timing is questionable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic the Phils locked up Chase, but perhaps the Phils should have signed a quality bullpen pitcher or two – if such a person is out there – before committing the money to Chase. Between the lines, it reads as if the Phils might not make that move to solidify the pen prior to Opening Day. It also must be remembered that the Phils still need to lock up Brett Myers, and eventually Ryan Howard.
Back to Chase…After coming off a career-year its hard to say Chase doesn’t deserve every penny of this deal. Statistically, he is the most valuable second baseman in the league. Only Alfonso Soriano – who has taken leave from second base – can compare, but with his name on a 8-year $136 million deal, Chase is definitely a better value. The new contract also means that 3/4 of the Phillies infield is locked up through the end of a decade. Now the question remains, how will Chase react to the deal. Will he go the way of Pat Burrell and, dare I say, Donovan McNabb who have not lived up to their monster deals? Or will he continue to be the archetypal hard-nosed and hard-working baseball professional and role model of kids across the Delaware Valley? I know we’re all rooting for the latter.