Chase Utley Rumors

Stark On Rays, Zobrist, Utley, Cubs, Padres

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and while things figure to get exciting over the next month and change, not everyone is drooling over what might be available.  “To be honest, I don’t see much out there,” an official of one contender told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. “Who’s even selling? And what are they selling? I know there will be guys to trade for. But where’s the quality?”  The whole column is worth a read, but here are some of the highlights from Stark’s latest..

  • The Rays front office believed that they had the talent to win it all this year and that optimism could play into how they approach the deadline.  The Rays aren’t selling and Stark writes that if they believe what they have can power them to a championship next season, they might stand pat and keep the band together.  Teams that have spoken with Tampa Bay see a fire sale as unlikely.
  • The Rays might listen on Ben Zobrist, but one exec who has spoken with the club gets the sense that it would be “really, really difficult” for them to part with him.  The exception to all of this, of course, is David Price.
  • The Phillies are expected to be open for business between now and the deadline, but they might not like the offers that come in.  “Look at their trade chips,” said an NL executive. “Even if they blow it up, dangle [Cole] Hamels and dangle all these other guys, each one of those guys has some reason it will be hard for them to get back what they want.
  • Meanwhile, one exec flatly said a Chase Utley trade is “not happening.”  The sticker price might not be met on Phillies like Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jimmy Rollins, but teams see Domonic Brown as someone whom the Phillies would like to swap for a different young change-of-scenery candidate.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Cubs expect them to move pitcher Jason Hammel in the next two weeks.  That could just be the warm up for Jeff Samardzija, but they continue to tell teams that they’d like to hammer out a new contract with him.  This week we learned that the Cubs ace rejected a five-year, $85MM+ offer.
  • While some teams are beating around the bush, the Padres are aggressively letting teams know that they want to sell.  All of their outfielders, except Cameron Maybin, are available, and that includes Seth Smith, Chris Denorfia, and Will Venable.
  • Several teams report the Dodgers are telling them they’ll listen right now on every one of their outfielders except Yasiel Puig.
  • The Yankees have been asking almost exclusively about starting pitching in their preliminary conversations.
  • Teams that have talked with the Tigers say they’re focused on bullpen upgrades, not shortstop.
  • The Angels are in the bullpen market, but they’re looking hard at left-handed-relief options, not closers.
  • Things are murky around the D’Backs since no one really knows who is in charge their or what their goals are.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore has indicated that the Royals can add payroll, but clubs believe that he won’t get to go-ahead to spend until mid-July.  When and if KC starts buying, they are expected to target right fielders and bullpen arms since that is what they’ve been asking about in conversations.

Deadline Notes: Utley, Rollins, Mayberry, Royals, Yankees, Mets

There’s been quite a bit of chatter regarding Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the Cubs’ pitchers over the past few days, due largely to the fact that everyone is aware the Cubs will be sellers at this summer’s non-waiver trade deadline. For other clubs, the trade picture isn’t so clear. Here are some notes on players that are potential trade targets and on which clubs should buy and which should sell…

  • Phillies president David Montgomery tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the club can’t be stubborn and close itself off from trading certain players if it’s the best thing for the team — and that includes longtime cornerstones Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Referring to Utley, Montgomery noted that he’d like his second baseman to remain with the club beyond his playing days. Of course, both players have 10-and-5 rights and can veto any trade.
  • For his part, Rollins softened his stance on waiving his no-trade rights after surpassing Mike Schmidt for the franchise hits lead this weekend, Gelb notes. Said Rollins: “It really depends if everything is blown up. Then, you take that into consideration. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that right now. But if that time does come, and it’s time to go … people move on.”
  • Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Red Sox and Yankees have some interest in John Mayberry Jr. as outfield depth. Boston has scouted several recent Phillies games, and one “plugged-in Major League source” tells Salisbury that the Yankees are a team to watch in regards to Mayberry as well.
  • In an ESPN Insider piece, Dan Szymborski opines that the Royals need to make a bold acquisition in an attempt to take the AL Central. Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system has the Royals as a 50-50 chance to make the playoffs and a 29 percent chance to win the division right now. With five regular position players ranking at or below replacement level (per Baseball-Reference), the team needs to make a splash, as the Tigers are far more vulnerable than most expected. He suggests that third base and right field are the two most viable spots, listing Aaron Hill, Ben Zobrist and Chase Headley as possible targets.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman expects to make a trade or multiple trades this July, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com“I feel that we need to get better from within, and I think I can speed up the process if I run into something outside at the same time,” said Cashman. “We usually make moves every year, so I expect to make moves again.” Bloom runs down a list of trade targets and notes that the stock of Dellin Betances has skyrocketed this season, though he wonders if Cashman would be willing to include a potential future closer for a short-term fix. Cashman said he didn’t want to wait to make a move but added that prices are often highest early on in trade season.
  • Though Joel Sherman of the New York Post said not long ago that the Mets should act boldly as buyers, the team’s recent woes have him convinced that the opposite may now be true. After a 4-11 skid, he writes that the Mets should deal two of Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee this summer and also make Daniel Murphy available in trades. Doing so will bring back valuable offensive prospects and position the Mets well for a high draft pick in 2015. He notes that Sandy Alderson’s regime has done well in trades, bringing in Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera by trading veteran pieces.

Cafardo On Lee, Papelbon, Giants, Hammel, Black

In his Sunday Baseball Notes column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reminisces about a pitchers’ duel between the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant and the Angels’ Nolan Ryan 40 years ago, the likes of which we may never see again in today’s game. Tiant threw 195 pitches and was still on the hill when the Angels scored the game-winner with one out in the bottom of the 15th inning. Ryan, meanwhile, tossed 235 pitches in a meager 13 innings of work. “When you took the baseball, you wanted to finish what you started,” Tiant told Cafardo. “I didn’t even feel tired. I could have gone as long as I had to go. They beat me on a ground ball that went through the second baseman’s legs. It was the 15th inning and I was OK.” The last pitcher to pitch more than nine innings in a MLB game was Cliff Lee, who lasted ten innings in April 2012.

Here’s more from Cafardo’s column:

  • Speaking of Lee, the Phillies left-hander will likely have to be a post-waiver deadline deal since he won’t have enough time between now and July 31st to rehab his strained elbow. Lee should be able to clear waivers because he has two years left on his deal at $25MM each.
  • Jonathan Papelbon is pitching a lot better and there’s an expectation he could be one of the first Phillies to go once they decide to sell. One AL scout who has watched Papelbon’s outings said, “I’ll give him credit. I think he’s learning to pitch with what he’s got left. He’s not 96-98 [miles per hour], but he’s getting back up to 92-93 and making a lot of good adjustments.” Cafardo wonders if he could be a future member of the Tigers or Orioles.
  • When Marco Scutaro returns from his back injury, he will likely become the Giants‘ utilityman and GM Brian Sabean is trying to add a second baseman by the trading deadline. Chase Utley would be a great fit, but Cafardo wonders if the Phillies will actually deal him, whether the veteran would waive his ten-and-five rights, and whether the Giants would give up the necessary bounty to acquire him.  Ultimately, SF could set its sights lower.
  • Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel is having a good season, but the scouting community is mixed on what impact he’d have on a contending team.  Some question whether he can keep up this pace or whether he’ll be more of a back-of-the-rotation starter. Even positive comments Cafardo has heard have been tagged with the caveat you wouldn’t give up the farm for him.
  • Despite the harsh assessment of the Padres‘ season by club CEO Mike Dee recently, Cafardo finds it hard to imagine Bud Black losing his job and opines firing him would be a mistake because he is seen as one of the game’s best managers in the eyes of a lot of baseball executives.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.



NL Notes: Cole, Roark, Phillies

Pirates ace Gerrit Cole has landed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, but the team doesn’t believe the shoulder has any structural damage, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. That could be great news for the Bucs, who will need Cole if they hope to make noise in the playoff race this summer. The injury, which came to light almost three years to the day after Cole was selected first overall in the 2011 draft, is a reminder of the uncertainty of drafting pitchers in a season that’s been full of such reminders. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The career trajectory of Tanner Roark of the Nationals is perhaps a more pleasant story about the uncertainty of pitching — the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore describes Roark as “a potential rotation piece that fell out of the sky.” The Rangers drafted Roark in the 25th round in 2008, then shipped him to Washington with another minor-leaguer for Cristian Guzman in 2010. Even in 2013, the Nationals used him as a reliever in Triple-A. But he pitched brilliantly down the stretch for the Nats in 2013 and has been nearly as good this season, posting a 2.91 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 as a key part of Washington’s rotation.
  • Chase Utley of the Phillies tops the list of the best bats who might be available in trade this summer, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. It’s unclear whether the Phillies will commit to trading veterans, but even if they do, some of them (like Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee) would be difficult to trade anyway. Utley, who is signed to a reasonable contract and is still very productive, is a different story. Utley has the right to veto any trade, however, since he has 10-and-5 rights, and the Phillies have shown no interest in trading Utley.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Royals, Collins, Padres, Rangers, Hardy, Amaro

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal wonders just how long the Royals can stand behind GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost given the team’s struggles to this point in the season. Moore called Yost a “consistent leader” when he spoke with Rosenthal and added that the team is only a hot streak or two away from a turnaround. Rosenthal writes that the entire team seems “too comfortable, waiting for a surge that might never come.” More from his column below…

  • On the other hand, Rosenthal doesn’t feel it’d be justified for the Mets to fire manager Terry Collins. Collins hasn’t been afforded the same talent that Yost has, he opines, and his front office has made some questionable decisions behind him regarding the bullpen and the underperforming crop of free agents the team brought in. He notes the team’s sparse spending despite their market, adding that it seems unlikely that Bud Selig would ever confront owner Fred Wilpon, with whom he is close friends.
  • Similarly, the Padres should hang onto skipper Bud Black, Rosenthal proclaims. Recent reports have indicated that he may be on the hot seat. Padres ownership too often has worried about alienating fans with personnel decisions, as they did when they neglected to trade Chase Headley after his 2012 season. Black is a highly regarded manager who has seen six of his pitchers hit the disabled list this season, though even Rosenthal admits that the offense’s follies have been virtually inexplicable.
  • The Rangers‘ glut of middle infield depth could lead them to field trade offers for Elvis Andrus this summer. With Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas all representing possible starting-caliber infielders, Texas does appear to have a surplus. I, personally, would imagine that each of those players could hear his name circulating on the rumor mill in two months’ time.
  • One agent who isn’t affiliated with J.J. Hardy or Derek Jeter suggested to Rosenthal recently that he thought the former would be the latter’s successor with the Yankees. Hardy has a low-maintenance personality, steady glove and experience in the AL East.
  • As has been reported previously, the Astros tried to acquire Collin McHugh last summer when the Mets dealt him to the Rockies, but Rosenthal adds more light on the situation. The team’s scouting department felt McHugh was little more than a long reliever, but the team’s statistical analysts pushed hard for McHugh based on trends they’d seen dating all the way back to his minor league days in 2011. The Astros, of course, claimed McHugh off waivers from Colorado, and he’s cemented himself in their rotation. GM Jeff Luhnow said over the weekend he has no plans to trade McHugh or breakout lefty Dallas Keuchel.
  • Though Kendrys Morales could be a perfect fit for the Mariners‘ offensive woes, rival executives say that the team is still showing the same payroll concerns that caused them to largely shut down spending after the signing of Robinson Cano this winter.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. called the possibility of trading Chase Utley a “moot point,” noting Utley’s no-trade protection and desire to remain in Philadelphia. Perhaps of greater interest (and perhaps to the dismay) of Phillies fans, is the following quote from Amaro: I don’t know if we’ll completely ‘sell’ ever. We can revamp, but we can’t completely sell out. We have to have a contending team in 2015 or ’16 — or at least a competitive team.”

Rosenthal On Rangers, Cubs, Jays, Utley, Detwiler

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via two videos on FOX Sports:

  • In light of Prince Fielder‘s injury, the Rangers could pursue free agent Kendrys Morales, although they will not do so until after the draft, since that would require them to lose a pick. If they fall out of contention, they could trade Alex Rios or Joakim Soria, either of whom could become free agents if the Rangers don’t pick up their 2015 options. They could also consider dealing Elvis Andrus, given their depth of young middle infield talent.
  • When the Cubs and Blue Jays discussed a Jeff Samardzija deal this offseason, the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison plus either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, Rosenthal reports. Especially in retrospect, that would have been a steep price to pay — Hutchison has been terrific in the Jays’ rotation so far this year, and while Sanchez has struggled with walks at Double-A New Hampshire, Stroman continues to look like a top prospect. The Jays are not likely to pursue Samardzija again this summer.
  • All signs indicate that the Phillies will not trade Chase Utley: Utley can veto any trade, he signed an extension last August, and GM Ruben Amaro tells Rosenthal that an Utley deal isn’t going to happen.
  • The Astros are not interested in trading pitchers Dallas Keuchel or Collin McHugh, both 26-year-old pitchers who are having surprisingly strong seasons in Houston’s starting rotation.
  • The Nationals could trade Ross Detwiler, a potential starter who’s currently in their bullpen. He’s currently earning $3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility. (Detwiler is currently struggling with a 5.24 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 22 1/3 innings. That means the Nationals aren’t likely to get much for him.)

Rosenthal On Norris, Lincecum, Rios, Utley

Let's take a look at the latest from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal in this week's edition of Full Count:

  • The Diamondbacks were the runner-up among teams vying to acquire Bud Norris from the Astros. The Snakes planned to keep Norris in the rotation for the remainder of the season, then shift him to the bullpen through the end of his contract, Rosenthal says, noting the team's wealth of young starting pitching and contracts for relievers Heath Bell and J.J. Putz that will expire after 2014. However, the Orioles were able to offer Houston the superior compensation pick.
  • Tim Lincecum is pushing his free agent stock up with his recent run of strong starts, but the Giants haven't initiated contract talks yet with the hurler. An executive cited by Rosenthal pegged a potential deal for Lincecum in the three-year range with a $13MM-14MM annual salary. Though that initially appears high considering the right hander's poor performance last year and at the beginning of this one, the qualifying offer the Giants are likely to extend will probably be in the same $13MM-14MM range.
  • Though the White Sox weren't able to find a taker for Alex Rios' contract before the deadline, Nelson Cruz's suspension changed the thinking in the Rangers' front office, according to Rosenthal. Texas was previously asking for significant cash back in any trade, while the Pirates weren't even interested enough to discuss specific names, Rosenthal reports. However, the Sox will likely eventually get infielder Leury Garcia from their deal with the Rangers, which could give them the flexibility to trade either second baseman Gordon Beckham or shortstop Alexei Ramirez
  • The dearth of hitters reaching the open market could have made Chase Utley quite popular in free agency. Rosenthal cites the Dodgers, Athletics and Orioles as potential suitors. The two years and $27MM of guaranteed salary that Utley received from the Phillies is comparable to guarantees that David Ortiz, Torii Hunter and Carlos Beltran got in free agency, Rosenthal notes.

Phillies Notes: Utley, Ruiz

It has been a rather noteworthy day for the Phillies front office: the club announced its extension of Chase Utley, claimed Casper Wells on waivers, and saw Michael Young clear waivers. Let's look at a few links regarding the Fightin' Phils …

  • Negotiations between the Phillies and Utley began in earnest a few weeks back, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia, after the club approached its star second baseman with trade interest it had received. When Utley told the team his preference was to stay, says Salisbury, the sides set out to make a deal happen.
  • The deal that Utley signed will effectively come with full no-trade protection, Salisbury notes (also via Twitter), as Utley will obtain ten and five rights on August 22.
  • Utley expects to remain satisfied with his decision to sign an extension before reaching free agency, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Sulia). "This is something that no matter what happens I'm not going to regret," said Utley. "I've talked to some guys that have played here and moved on to other organizations. The grass isn't always greener on the other side."
  • With Utley pretty firmly entrenched as a Phillie-for-life, it remains to be seen what will happen to another stalwart from the club's 2007-2011 peak seasons. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes, catcher Carlos Ruiz may have a guaranteed place in Philadelphia's history, but it is far less clear whether he will have a place on its roster over the coming seasons. For his part, the 34-year-old Ruiz says he hopes to remain with the only big league club he's every played for.

Phillies Extend Chase Utley

Chase Utley is the face of the Phillies franchise, and that's no longer in jeopardy of changing at the end of this year. The Phillies have officially announced a two-year extension for Utley that contains three vesting options. The contract is reportedly worth $27MM and could be worth as much as $75MM over five years if all of the options vest and Utley stays healthy.  Utley

Utley is guaranteed $15MM in 2014 and $10MM in 2015 and has a $2MM buyout on his first option. His 2015 salary will rise to $15MM if he spends no more than 15 days on the disabled list due to a specific knee condition. Each option is valued at $15MM and is triggered if Utley reaches 500 plate appearances in the previous season.

Should Utley fail to reach 500 plate appearances in any season from 2015-17, the following year's vesting option will become a club option worth between $5MM and $11MM. The specific value of those conditional club options would be based on the number of days he spent on the disabled list the previous season. The deal contains a full no-trade clause, though that is essentially a moot point because he will receive 10-and-5 rights later this month.

A fresh multi-year deal for the Phillies and the 34-year-old seemed unlikely just a few months ago as he suffered yet another setback with a strained oblique that kept him sidelined to start the season.  He's bounced back, however, and has appeared in 84 of the club's 113 games. 

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline that he planned to hold on to all of the club's veterans, but that didn't stop the baseball world from speculating on potential deals for players, including Utley.  The second baseman figured to bring in a decent return from clubs looking for a quality rental and the Royals were among the teams that were linked. Ultimately, Amaro kept his word and will now keep one of his club's cornerstones for the foreseeable future.

The Phillies and Utley's representation were first reported to be discussing something with an average annual value of about $13MM, modeled after Carlos Beltran's two-year pact with the Cardinals, late last month.  While both play different positions, both have displayed significant value in the face of injuries.

In 342 plate appearances this season, Utley owns a .275/.336/.505 slash line with 15 homers.  For his career, the second baseman has hit .287/.373/.500 across eleven seasons for the Phillies. A variety of knee problems and right thumb surgery in 2010 have caused Utley to average 100 games in the three seasons prior to 2013.

Utley is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, the same agency that previously ironed out a seven-year, $85MM deal for the second baseman.

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia first reported that an agreement had been reached (on Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the contract would contain multiple vesting options and provided the financial breakdown after Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the deal was worth $27MM (Twitter link).

Steve Adams contriubted to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Braves, Marlins, Papelbon, Utley

No team in baseball holds a bigger lead on first place in its division than the Braves' 11.5 game advantage on the second-place Nationals. And yet, as MLBTR's Jeff Todd pointed out Thursday, just four trades involving NL East teams occurred in the entire month of July. Here's more on the Braves and the rest of the AL East…

  • The Braves still want to add another infielder and a left-handed bat to their bench, and GM Frank Wren told Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there's a good chance of an August trade for Atlanta to address those needs. The team also needs to see how outfielders Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton fare as they work their way back to health.
  • Wren called this year's deadline "strange," noting that there were fewer sellers and fewer players available than he's accustomed to seeing, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Wren said he had some conversations on Wednesday leading up to the deadline, but none proved to be substantial.
  • Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that he never got the sense that anything was close in the trade discussions he had leading up to the deadline. "[Wednesday] wasn't our day," said Beinfest.
  • After holding onto Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, both players are now part of the Phillies' rebuild, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Papelbon would be wise to follow the examples of Lee and Michael Young, in the mind of Brookover, rather than make candid comments like the one Papelbon issued this past Sunday when he said, "I definitely didn't come here for this," adding that the organization needed changes from top to bottom.
  • Phillies president David Montgomery offered the highest praise for Chase Utley when speaking to Brookover's colleague, Ryan Lawrence. Montgomery noted that Utley has endeared himself to the city and is a "max-out player" and "a tremendous teammate." Clearly, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. agreed, adding: "I'm not sure he's a guy you can replace at second base." The two sides continue to work toward an extension, though Lawrence notes that the Phillies don't feel they need to get a deal done before he hits free agency, likening Utley's situation to that of Jimmy Rollins following the 2011 season.