Blocking a Trade? The Phillies Created Their Utley Situation


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It appears that Chase Utley won’t accept a trade anywhere. This is unfortunate, as the Phillies won’t get a player for Utley and won’t free up playing time for Cesar Hernandez. Utley would simply play out the schedule as a member of the Phillies, and his option would not vest. Then most people believe the Phillies would pay his $2 million buyout, making him a free agent. We’ll see if that’s true. I’m fine with Chase playing out the schedule as the Phillies second baseman though if that’s how it has to go.

I remain completely committed to the idea that this should probably be Chase’s last season here. I’d rather give Cesar Hernandez a try. Even if Cesar fails, Freddy Galvis, Scott Kingery, and Malquin Canelo are all players that could get a future look at second. Frankly though, most of the knocks made on Cesar being able to sustain his numbers- that his BABIP is high, his walk rate is unsustainable, and his defense at second is inadequate- all can be pushed back with a quick look through his minor league stats through the years. This is his first shot as an MLB starter, and he deserves a chance next year to prove whether 2015 was real or not. I could entertain the idea of re-signing Chase if I could play him mostly at first base, but we’re a long way from entertaining that idea yet.

All of this really amounts to, assuming Chase actually is blocking the deals, two months of a farewell tour for Chase, which really won’t hurt anyone. They wouldn’t have received an A-List prospect or anything for him, and he did earn the 10-and-5 rights he’s exercising (we think he is, at least). I obviously think Utley should have wanted to be traded to a team in the race. I obviously would have preferred that. I don’t think anything is wrong with him using his rights though, or that he finishes the season here. It’s a non-issue.

It’s a good teachable moment for the Phillies though. This team, in hindsight, was clearly done after they limped out of 2011. That was abundantly clear after 2012. The Phillies didn’t admit they needed to rebuild until late 2014. Players like Utley, Howard, and Rollins had their 10-and-5 rights, and full no-trade power. They all were also substantially less valuable, to the point where no one even cares that Utley isn’t willing to go. Had the Phillies traded Chase in 2013 or 2014 even, the return would have been very good, and the Phillies would have been substantially further along in their rebuild. The lesson here is that you don’t try to bleed more ticket sales at a point where your formerly great players are clearly done. You take a one or two year marketing hit to make better baseball decisions.

Fortunately in the case of Utley, the Phillies aren’t really being burned at this point in learning this lesson. If he plays out the string here, so be it. There’s no harm in letting him play out his fine Philadelphia career to a hero’s farewell.

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