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Chase Utley Rumors
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal looks at the failed attempt to acquire Chase Utley made by both the Angels and Cubs. Anaheim “blew it” by not adding Utley, opines Rosenthal, as the Halos had more playing time to offer than the Dodgers but didn’t pull the trigger on a deal despite only having acquired “complementary hitters” in July. (That seems harsh, as there’s no guarantee that the current iteration of Utley is anything more than a complementary piece himself.) As for the Cubs, they initially showed interest while Utley was still hurt, but Utley wasn’t comfortable being traded while on a rehab assignment, says Rosenthal, so the Phils waited to put him through waivers. By the time he returned, Howie Kendrick had been hurt in L.A., creating a match with the Dodgers.
Some more highlights from the column…
- As others have noted, the Angels‘ GM opening is a tough sell to prospective candidates because Arte Moreno is more involved than the average owner, and Mike Scioscia has more power than the average manager. One rival general manager described the Angels’ GM role to Rosenthal as such: “You take all of the beatings (from Moreno) and you’ve got no power (due to Scioscia).” Jerry Dipoto resigned from his post this summer due to reported clashes with Scioscia.
- The Blue Jays tried to trade for Ben Zobrist, but the Athletics‘ asking price was Matt Boyd plus other pieces, Rosenthal hears, which was too steep for GM Alex Anthopoulos. Boyd was ultimately one of three pieces used to acquire David Price from the Tigers.
- Rosenthal reports that the Giants are likely to pursue right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as they look to bulk up their rotation this offseason. However, he notes that the Wisconsin native may prefer to return to the Midwest. Zimmermann ranked eighth on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, though he’s had a couple of rough starts since then.
- The Giants may also consider attempting to unload the final year of Angel Pagan‘s contract this winter. Pagan is slated to earn $10MM next season in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract after playing in just 167 games from 2013-14 and struggling at the plate in 102 games to this point in 2015. San Francisco could use Gregor Blanco in center field in the event that they’re able to move Pagan.
- The recent trend of teams promoting an assistant GM to GM and a current GM to president (as the White Sox and Giants have done) could continue this offseason as teams try to prevent their top AGMs from departing for GM vacancies elsewhere, Rosenthal writes. The Rangers could promote Thad Levine to GM (and presumably elevate Jon Daniels), for instance, and the Cardinals could promote Mike Girsch (presumably promoting GM John Mozeliak as well). And, should Mark Shapiro end up with the Blue Jays, the Indians could bump Mike Chernoff to GM and make Chris Antonetti president (Cleveland previously did his by moving Shapiro from GM to president and Antonetti from AGM to GM). Levine, Girsch and Chernoff could all attract interest from other teams this winter.
Full Story | 13 Comments | Categories: Angel Pagan | Ben Zobrist | Chase Utley | Chicago Cubs | Chris Antonetti | Cleveland Indians | Gregor Blanco | John Mozeliak | Jon Daniels | Jordan Zimmermann | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Mark Shapiro | Mike Chernoff | Oakland Athletics | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays
Following Chase Utley‘s departure from the Phillies, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com pays tribute to one of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history. Salisbury recalls the draft-day dilemma the Phillies faced, weighing the decision between Utley and Rocco Baldelli (though the Rays made the decision easier by selecting Baldelli nine picks before Utley). The selection reshaped the Phillies’ history, leading to the emergence of a player that Salisbury calls a “100 percent pure ballplayer” and whom Salisbury believes played through more pain and injury as a member of the Phillies than anyone in recent history. Meanwhile, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke to a number of Phillies players about their favorite Utley memories and what it meant to have him as a teammate.
More on the Phillies’ transition and the rest of their division…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that while the Phillies may have waited too long to begin their rebuilding process, they deserve credit for making their sixth trade in the past eight months that has bettered the organization. The Phillies did well to include more than $24MM in cash considerations to improve their returns (to say nothing of taking on the remaining $32MM of Matt Harrison‘s contract), and as Rosenthal points out, nine of their top 16 prospects at MLB.com have been acquired in the past year’s trades. One rival exec to whom Rosenthal spoke praised the Phillies for ultimately doing what needed to be done — “[they] sold everyone they could get value from.”
- Hector Olivera‘s debut with the Braves could come as soon as next Monday, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The infielder, acquired from the Dodgers in a 13-player trade last month, had his minor league rehab assignment moved up to Triple-A on Thursday. O’Brien spoke to Freddie Freeman about the acquisition of Olivera, and Freeman candidly admitted that it was tough, as a player, to see the team give up so many players to acquire a hitter who has never played a Major League game. However, Freeman also saw Olivera while the two were rehabbing together and did come away impressed with the infielder’s skills — particularly his power. As O’Brien notes, Olivera has defensive versatility, but the Braves plan to make him their everyday third baseman.
- Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is hopeful that he can return to the roster by early September, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Stanton says he’s still feeling weakness when turning over his wrist, but he has progressed to hitting 95 mph pitches in the batting cage on back-to-back pain-free days. Stanton has been on the shelf since June 26, when he broke his hamate bone upon being hit by a pitch. He underwent surgery two days later.
The Phillies continued to dismantle their aging core, agreeing last night to send All-Star second baseman Chase Utley to the Dodgers in return for some salary relief and a pair of young players. “And then there were two,” said first baseman Ryan Howard, who is joined by backstop Carlos Ruiz as the only remaining pieces of the club’s 2008 World Series-winning outfit (via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki).
Here are some notes and reactions to the deal:
- Dealing a franchise icon in Utley was hard, but was “the right thing for us to do for both Chase and the franchise,” Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link). Utley “had given us some clubs that he would be interested in and would consider going to,” said Amaro, but it was nevertheless difficult to finalize a deal given the “complications” of the veteran’s full no-trade protection. “We got to the point where I think Chase, the Dodgers, and the Phillies kind of worked together to make this happen,” said the Philadelphia GM. “Hopefully this is a good thing for all parties.”
- Utley seemed to echo Amaro’s thoughts in his comments last night to the press, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. “Three weeks ago or so, I had a conversation with Ruben,” said Utley. “I think everyone knows my love and affection for the city . We put our heads together and decided it might be best for us to part ways. I gave them a list of a handful of teams that I would consider playing for, and then it was Ruben’s job to find the best deal he could for the organization. And ultimately it came down to the Dodgers, a team I grew up watching.” He also expressed a clear vision for what he’s hoping to accomplish in his new home: “My goal there is to win. That’s the bottom line.”
- In addition to saving about $2MM, the Phillies come away from the deal with some fairly interesting young players, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes. 24-year-old Darnell Sweeney is a solid all-around player with good defensive flexibility, writes Callis. Meanwhile, righty John Richy has a power sinker and three playable offspeed pitches, making him a possible back-end starter.
- That return represents a win for the Phillies front office, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. Sweeney will head straight to the big league roster, of course, meaning that Philadelphia will get an early look at just what it has. The club was able to benefit from the fact that the Dodgers are loaded with similar players already and would have found it hard to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter. Given the limitations presented — salary, no-trade protection, and Utley’s struggles this year — Seidman says that it wouldn’t have been reasonable to expect more.
- From the Dodgers’ perspective, says GM Farhan Zaidi, the club has high expectations for Utley’s bat, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports. “When he’s healthy, he’s still one of the best hitters in the game,” said Zaidi. Utley is expected to see regular action at second until Howie Kendrick returns from the DL, and could shift around the infield thereafter.
- Many have wondered why Los Angeles went after a hitter when the team’s bullpen has struggled so much of late, but Zaidi indicated that adding Utley did not preclude other moves, as Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports on Twitter. Indeed, the club could still add a relief arm, according to the GM. “I don’t feel like [the Utley trade] depletes our trade capital … in any real way,” he added.
TODAY, 7:48am: The precise financial terms are contingent upon performance bonuses and the Dodgers’ decision on Utley’s option, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets, but Philadelphia is expected to owe about $3.7MM of the remainder of Utley’s deal.
YESTERDAY, 10:25pm: The Phillies announced that Sweeney will step directly onto the big league roster to fill Utley’s roster spot.
9:47pm: Another franchise icon is out the door in Philadelphia, as the Phillies announced tonight that they have traded Chase Utley and cash considerations to the Dodgers in exchange for minor leaguers Darnell Sweeney and John Richy. L.A. will reportedly receive about $4MM, meaning the Phillies will save a bit less than $2MM.
Reports earlier afternoon indicated that Utley was likely to either be dealt today or remain with the Phillies for the rest of the season. The veteran has drawn interest from multiple clubs in need of a veteran presence down the stretch. With full no-trade rights, Utley had the ability to dictate if he was traded and to where he was traded, and the Dodgers fit his preference of a Southern California team.
Utley, 36, has been one of the game’s very best players of the last decade. Over his 6,617 career plate appearances, he has produced at a 124 wRC+ clip. With stellar defense also a key component of his value, Utley has racked up over 60 WAR in 13 seasons.
But that outstanding production slowed somewhat last year and fell off a cliff in 2015 as Utley dealt with nagging ankle issues. He ultimately hit the DL for a stretch as his performance continued to suffer. All told, Utley carries a career-worst .617 OPS on the season.
Things have been trending up, however, since Utley returned from the DL. He’s slashed a robust .484/.485/.742 over 31 plate appearances in the month of August. That’s a small sample, of course, but it does suggest he’s healthy, and Utley obviously has an outstanding and lengthy track record of success.
For Los Angeles, of course, the interest in Utley is tied in large part to the club’s loss of second baseman Howie Kendrick to a hamstring strain. The left-handed-hitting Utley will now rejoin long-time middle infield mate Jimmy Rollins, though presumably both will share time with Kike Hernandez down the stretch.
Hernandez, of course, could also see time in center as the Dodgers work to maximize the platoon advantage. Playing Hernandez in the outfield would likely mean exposing Utley to left-handed pitching. While the long-time All-Star has fared well historically against opposing southpaws, he’s also shown much wider splits in the last several seasons.
Utley has a vesting option that would’ve triggered at $15MM were he to reach 500 plate appearances, but he’s no longer a candidate to hit that mark. Instead, it will become a team option with a price tag of between $5MM and $11MM, depending upon precisely how many days he ends up tallying on the DL.
In Sweeney and Richy, the Phillies will receive the Dodgers’ No. 13 and No. 29 prospects, respectively, per MLB.com. Sweeney has spent most of his time in center field this season but also has experience at both middle infield positions. He’s hitting .271/.332/.409 with nine homers and 32 steals at the Triple-A level this season. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo over at MLB.com feel that he’s a fringy option at shortstop but can play an adequate second base or center field. He lacks a standout tool but possesses more power than most middle infielders and has “solid” speed.
Richy, 23, was L.A.’s third-round pick in 2014. He has a four-pitch mix with a fastball that tops out at 94 mph. He’s able to throw strikes and projects as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, per MLB.com. Fangraphs Kiley McDaniel also wrote up both players in his preseason look at the Dodgers’ farm system. Baseball America ranked Sweeney 16th among Dodgers farmhands and ranked Richy 24th prior to the season
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki first reported that the Dodgers were moving closer to a deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that two minor leaguers would go to the Phillies, with about $4MM going to the Dodgers. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that the deal had been agreed to. Zolecki reported that Sweeney was in the deal (Twitter link). Rosenthal reported that Richy was the other minor leaguer (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TODAY, 2:02pm: A source “close to Utley” tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that the second baseman will likely either be dealt today or remain in Philadelphia. (Twitter link.)
1:12pm: In spite of yesterday’s comments, there is a possibility that Utley will be dealt today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The “situation” is “coming to a head,” sources tell FOX.
YESTERDAY, 3:27pm: Team president Pat Gillick echoed Amaro’s sentiments in a radio appearance with Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto today. Philadelphia.com’s Matt Rappa has transcribed Gillick’s comments (which cover many other elements of the team in addition to Utley). Said Gillick:
“There’s been a lot of conversation about Chase leaving Philadelphia. At this point, he’s still a Phillie and it appears that he’s going to be a Phillie until the end of the season at least.”
9:28am: Veteran second baseman Chase Utley is “likely” to remain with the club for the remainder of the season, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said this morning in an appearance on Philadelphia’s Sports Radio 94 WIP (via Howard Eskin, on Twitter).
Utley, 36, has drawn fairly wide interest from teams looking to fill out their rosters through the August trade market. He has cleared waivers, making him eligible to be dealt to any club, but retains full no-trade protection. Utley reportedly is interested in assurances of playing time and has a geographic preference for Southern California.
While Amaro’s comments certainly validate the possibility that Utley will remain in Philadelphia the rest of the way, as some recent reports have also suggested, there’s still plenty of time for something to come together. On the other hand, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, while there is surprise in some quarters that a deal has yet to go down, Utley could well end up preferring to finish out what is likely his last season with the Phils.
The Giants are looking to add an outfielder, especially in the wake of Hunter Pence‘s oblique injury, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. But San Francisco is only interested in an acquisition that would provide an offensive boost to the lineup.
While the Giants have been open about their interest in second baseman Chase Utley, meanwhile, the club reportedly does not expect to land the veteran. San Francisco believes he prefers to head to a Southern California club, and also expects to bring back starter Joe Panik for all of September.
As San Francisco’s attention turns to the outfield market, the club will obviously have limited options in the revocable waivers period. Among the players who have reportedly cleared waivers, only Dexter Fowler — who seems something of an unlikely trade candidate — plays in the outfield grass.
Schulman writes that Will Venable had been a possibility, albeit one that the team was not terribly excited about, but he was dealt to the Rangers yesterday. The Giants are not only dealing with the absence of Pence, but have yet to welcome starting center fielder Angel Pagan back from the DL.
Marcell Ozuna‘s 33-game stint in Triple-A was “like a jail” to the outfielder, as he tells Adam Zuvanich of the Miami Herald. The Marlins demoted Ozuna in July ostensibly due to his early-season struggles, though agent Scott Boras believed the Fish were keeping Ozuna in the minors to deny his client MLB service time and prevent his arbitration eligibility. “I know what happened when they sent me down. I knew that’s coming,” Ozuna said. “I don’t go there for work, because they know me. I don’t need the work. One for 36, 1 for 100, every big-league player has it. I have it and everybody has it.” Ozuna rejoined the Marlins this weekend after Christian Yelich went on the disabled list.
Here’s more from Miami and elsewhere around the NL East…
- Some in the Marlins front office want to keep Ozuna rather than explore trades for him this offseason, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports, though “at least one prominent Marlins person is open” to moving the outfielder. Ozuna drew trade interest from several teams (including the Indians) prior to the deadline.
- Also from Jackson’s column, he writes that the Marlins want to wait until after the season to make their intended managerial change so that they know the full pool of candidates before making a decision. This will allow the team to include any current managers in their search should those skippers be fired; Jackson cites the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly as an example. Jackson adds that there’s no front-runner for the job, though previous managing experience will be an important criteria.
- Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t concerned about his contract status, telling Newsday’s Steven Marcus that he has “no idea” if the club will discuss an extension with him while the season is still going. “I’m telling you, I don’t think about it. I think about playing golf in November. That’s the only thing on my mind right now,” Collins said. Collins’ deal expires at the end of the season though the Mets hold an option on his services for 2016. A team spokesman tells Marcus that the Mets will “address [a possible extension] at the proper time,” which I would presume refers to after the season is over.
- Assuming the Mets make the postseason or fall just short, Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com suspects the team will exercise their 2016 option on Collins and extend his deal through the 2017 season. It would “border on disrespectful,” Cerrone feels, if the Mets didn’t have Collins extended before next Spring Training given how the skipper has exceeded expectations since being hired as somewhat of a transitional manager.
- The Mets need to acquire yet another bullpen arm to address their still-struggling relief corps, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.
- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin admitted that it’s difficult to find playing time for trade candidate Chase Utley, as Andrew Gruman of MLB.com writes. “I mean, yeah, we like ‘Ut’. It is an issue for me, because I have to try to play everybody, and the guys that deserve to play, like [Cesar] Hernandez and so forth, I want them to play. But I want Utley to play, too. It is not an easy task for me, but we’ll do what we can,” Mackanin said.
- Nationals assistant GM Doug Harris is profiled by James Wagner of the Washington Post. Harris oversees the club’s farm system and manages the Nats’ pro scouting department in addition to other duties, and is seen as a potential future general manager by many around baseball; just earlier today, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tabbed Harris as a contender to be the Brewers’ next GM.
Chase Utley wants to join a contender on the West Coast and preferably in his native Southern California, two executives involved in the discussions told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The second baseman holds full no-trade rights, so he’ll have say over where he goes or whether he leaves Philly at all.
The Angels and Giants are said to have interest, but Rosenthal writes that the right fit might never arise for the Phillies and the 36-year-old. Utley has never asked the Phillies for a trade and would only leave the organization reluctantly, sources tell the FOX Sports scribe. Also, while teams are interested, they are reluctant to give up much for a seven-week rental who is owed $6MM+, including a $2MM buyout on his 2016 option.
On the flipside, Utley could have incentive to green light a trade since going to a contender could enhance his value this winter. The Phillies could also sweeten the pot with some cash to get a suitable return and make a deal happen.
The Cubs are still in the mix for the veteran, but given his California preference, they are not his first choice. The Cubs also might not want to disrupt a team that has won 15 of its last 16 games heading into today’s contest against the White Sox, Rosenthal writes. The Yankees could offer more playing time than any other suitor, but they’re on the wrong coast for the veteran. The Dodgers, in theory, fit the bill as a Cali contender with a need at second base, but Howie Kendrick could return in two weeks and Kiké Hernandez has been doing well in that spot so far.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looked at several managers who could be out of a job this winter. Among the skippers listed is Nationals manager Matt Williams, who has come under fire at times for his in-game decisions. Still, in his defense, Cafardo notes that Williams has had to deal with poor performances by players like Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, not to mention injuries. Other situations to monitor include the Reds (Bryan Price), Phillies (Pete Mackanin), Tigers (Brad Ausmus), and Mariners (Lloyd McClendon). Here’s more from today’s column..
- When the D’Backs and other clubs called on Aroldis Chapman at the deadline, the Reds were asking for an “incredibly unrealistic” return, according to one GM who spoke with Cafardo. “I couldn’t believe it,” the GM said of the asking price for the closer. Still, it sounds like Reds GM Walt Jocketty will at least listen on him this winter and the price tag could be more palatable for interested teams. “I think teams would give up three very good prospects for him,” said one AL GM, “but I think that’s as far as it would go.” Recently, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that many in baseball are questioning Jocketty’s decision to hang on to Chapman past the July trade deadline. Heyman also noted that Arizona could pursue him once again this offseason.
- As of Friday, the Giants had no idea how their pursuit of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley would go. GM Bobby Evans acknowledged over the weekend that he’s still in pursuit of Utley, but one has to wonder how far they’re willing to go with Joe Panik on the verge of returning.
- If the Nationals wind up replacing Ian Desmond this winter, they have a very capable replacement on deck in Trea Turner. “He’s a baseball player,” one veteran AL scout said of Turner. “He’s going to be an All-Star player in the big leagues. I don’t see how he misses. He has great instincts for the position and the game in general. He’s got those [Dustin] Pedroia qualities.” Turner, rated as the No. 65 prospect in baseball heading into the 2015 season, is hitting .306/.349/.422 at Triple-A Syracuse.
- Nationals director of player development Doug Harris could emerge as the frontrunner for the Brewers‘ GM job, Cafardo writes. Doug Melvin, who has stepped down as president/GM to take on an adviser role, was the GM in Texas while Harris was an exec there.
- As team president Theo Epstein enters his walk year in 2016, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is expected to start discussing a new deal with him soon. If he can’t offer him enough money to stay in Chicago, Cafardo wonders aloud if he could go elsewhere or maybe even circle back to the Red Sox.
We’ve seen several recent cellar dwellers climb to contention this season, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Cubs, Mets, and Astros are playing meaningful August baseball for the first time in years. Davidoff looks ahead at five more struggling franchises that could surprise us all in 2016. Purely for enjoyment, my favorite picks are the Twins and Phillies. Minnesota hopes to surge on the young bats of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and recent breakout Aaron Hicks. They also have sneaky upside in their rotation although the bullpen could use work. Philadelphia is the obvious long shot. Their rebuilding phase is incomplete, but they’ve identified a few key building blocks. A couple surprise breakout performances and a handful of lucky wins could at least allow the club to perform similarly to the Braves.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Drew Smyly will start for the Rays on Sunday, tweets Bill Chastain of MLB.com. The 26-year-old southpaw has spent most of the 2015 season on the disabled list with a torn labrum. Since joining the Rays in the David Price trade last season, Smyly has a 1.96 ERA, 9.1 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 64 and 1/3 innings. Although the Rays remain in the thick of the playoff race, expect them to proceed carefully with Smyly.
- We learned earlier tonight that the Angels still hope to acquire Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. The Giants remain involved with the bidding, tweets Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Giants GM Bobby Evans cleverly commented that “the Chase for Utley continues.” As Baggarly notes, every day is one closer to the return of Joe Panik. At that point, Utley may be redundant for San Francisco. It’s already been announced that Utley will rest tomorrow, so trade speculation should remain rampant.
- Padres starter Tyson Ross is happy to have remained with the club through the trade deadline, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Ross, 28, was a heavily rumored trade candidate. He’s in the midst of a solid season including a 3.40 ERA, 9.58 K/9, and 4.14 BB/9. Ross is glad the club made no moves at the deadline. He believes the current roster is “a good group” with “a lot of promise.” He’s controlled through the 2017 season.