Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports published an interesting piece today that indicated that the window for a Chase Utley trade may be closing and the paths for getting one done may be narrowing. When discussing any potential Utley deal, it is very important to consider that Utley very much has all of the cards. With full no-trade protection through his 10/5 rights, Utley can choose to veto, or conversely allow, any trade that is presented to him. Rosenthal points out, as is consistent with reporting from our own Corey Seidman, as well Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki that Utley has never requested a trade and may be reluctant to approve any deal on that basis. A composite picture of the reporting indicates Utley, if he were to approve a deal at all, would likely do so if it were to a contending, West Coast team.
There are a few teams that fit that description but unfortunately for those advocating a trade for Utley, two of those teams may find themselves out of the running. The Dodgers and Giants seemed to have among the most interest and may be of best preference to Utley if he were to approve a deal but those teams have stayed afloat through injuries to their second basemen with returns imminent. Howie Kendrick of the Dodgers went out on August 9 with a strained hamstring and has been working toward a three-week return or around August 30. Joe Panik, who has been the NL’s best second baseman in 2015 per fWAR, wRC+, and OPS, is on track to return to baseball activities soon, per reports, and could be back as soon as September 1 according to Rosenthal. Either team would essentially be taking on a $6 million rental for only a few weeks to plug a hole in their lineups that are serving as opportunities to audition Major League-ready talent for both clubs: Kike Hernandez for the Dodgers and Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson for the Giants.
One West Coast option that remains are the Angels who Rosenthal says thought they had a deal with the Phillies completed on Friday but now are saying they are “out”. As Rosenthal points out, the Angels were once on steadier ground in terms of playoff odds but now sit tied with the Orioles for the second Wild Card, just one game ahead of division rival Texas with a glut of teams within 4.5 games of the final AL playoff spot. The Angels have 28-year old Johnny Giavotella playing second who is hitting well as of late (last 24 games: .313/.340/.394) but has not been a consistent source of offense in 2015.
According to Rosenthal, the Cubs, who pursued Utley while on the DL in July, are not Utley’s first choice while the Yankees, in need of an upgrade themselves with the deep pockets to afford a temporary solution, may be on the outside looking in, as well.
Analysis: Utley appears to fit best with the Angels, where he could play second, first, and DH. From 2012-2014, a more representative sample of the player Utley likely is at this very moment, Utley hit .272/.348/.436. Comparing this line to current Angels’ second baseman Giavotella’s line in 2015 (.273/.321/.360) demonstrates a clear upgrade for the Angels, improving the OPS of the second base position by nearly 100 points. The Angles would likely have to part with very little considering Utley’s status as a $6 million rental ($4 million remaining plus $2 million 2016 buyout) and could keep Utley fresh by using him in the DH spot as well.
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