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Chase Utley Rumors
10:24pm: Morosi clarifies that Utley was actually placed on waivers on Sunday (via Twitter). That means that his claim period will expire tomorrow.
11:32am: The Phillies placed second baseman Chase Utley on revocable trade waivers on Saturday, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). That waiver period would expire today if Utley goes unclaimed, at which point he’d be eligible to be traded to any team. (For those who are unfamiliar with revocable waivers, MLBTR has already posted a more in-depth look at how August trades work.) Utley, of course, still has 10-and-5 rights and could veto any trade of which he does not approve.
The 36-year-old Utley was activated from the disabled list after a lengthy absence due to a sprained right ankle. He batted just .179/.257/.275 in 65 games before landing on the DL, though he’s given interested teams at least a flicker of reason for optimism; Utley has four hits (three doubles) in 10 plate appearances since being activated and also went 6-for-11 in a brief, three-game rehab assignment in the minors.
That minuscule sample size does little to mask the reasons that make it difficult to trade Utley. In addition to his dismal first-half production and no-trade protection, Utley is also an expensive asset. He’s earning $15MM this season, of which about $4.59MM remains. The Phillies would almost certainly have to include some form of cash considerations in order to facilitate a deal.
Utley’s injury may have helped the Phillies improve their chances of trading him in another way, though, as he’s still 241 plate appearances shy of triggering a $15MM vesting option for the 2016 season. With about two thirds of the season in the books, Utley would need to average 4.6 to 4.7 plate appearances per game to trigger the option — an unattainable rate even if he were to play every day.
Utley has been connected to a number of teams despite his struggles. The Giants are the most recent team that have been linked to him, but the Cubs, Angels, Dodgers and Yankees have also been tied to Utley in various media reports. He’s yet to firmly indicate that he would approve a trade, but he did recently say he would “definitely listen” to a proposed trade scenario if approached by the Phillies’ front office “out of respect” for the team.
The Giants had a scout watching the Phillies/Padres series in San Diego this weekend with the purpose of watching Chase Utley, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. Utley made his return from the disabled list this weekend and went 4-for-10 over the three games, contributing three doubles, two runs and two RBI in Philadelphia’s sweep of the Padres. It was Utley’s first game action since June 22.
Utley may be one of the most closely-watched veterans of the August waiver period, as the Cubs, Angels and Yankees have already been rumored to be interested in the veteran second baseman. The Giants’ interest is tied to the health of Joe Panik, who is on the DL with lower back inflammation. As Salisbury notes, Utley could be acquired for depth and leadership purposes since Panik is expected to return. Since Utley has hit only .189/.263/.294 this season, it’s also maybe a stretch that Utley can be relied on as an everyday replacement unless he shows signs of his old form.
San Francisco may be an ideal trade destination for Utley, as his family’s offseason home is in the Bay Area. He has no-trade protection as a 10-and-5 player, and Utley has said he’s open to exploring whatever trade options the Phillies bring to him.
Utley is owed approximately $4.59MM for the remainder of the season, and he has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that will be unlocked if he receives 500 plate appearances this season. He has 259 PA after today’s action, and his lengthy DL stint makes it unlikely he’ll reach that vesting plateau. With less than 500 PA, the option become a club option worth between $5MM-$11MM (depending on time spent on the DL) with a $2MM buyout.
Break up the Phillies? With today’s victory over the Padres, the Phils improved to 16-5 over their last 21 games, a stunning hot streak from a club that was at or near the bottom of the league standings for virtually the entire first half. Here’s the latest from Philly…
- Chase Utley reiterated on Saturday that he “would be more than happy to listen to” the team if they presented him with a trade scenario, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. “I do love Philadelphia. I’ve had a great time playing here, but out of respect for them, I would definitely listen to them,” Utley said. The second baseman had always been firm about not waiving his no-trade clause to accommodate a deal, but as Zolecki notes, Utley’s stance softened a bit during Spring Training when he said he’d listen to the team’s proposal if other veterans were dealt. This is exactly what has come to pass this summer, as Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere were all traded.
- In another Zolecki piece, Utley said “I think that’s a little too far to look ahead” when asked if he’d still be a Phillie on September 1, and said “who knows?” when asked if he’d expected to finish the season in Philadelphia.
- Odubel Herrera has been a solid contributor for the Phillies and is earning himself consideration as a long-term building block, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jake Kaplan writes. Taken from the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft last winter, Herrera boasted a .289/.320/.422 slash line over 343 plate appearances as the Phils’ regular center fielder prior to Sunday’s action.
- The Phillies should stick to short-term contracts for veterans over the next season or two when filling out roster depth, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, particularly in the starting rotation. “There is no sense for them to start digging another financial hole like the one they are almost finished climbing out of,” Murphy writes, arguing that the Phils need to keep payroll flexibility for around 2018 when they’re ready to contend again.
Longtime star second baseman Chase Utley will rejoin the Phillies tomorrow, the club announced. It’s almost certainly too late for him to reach sufficient plate appearances to trigger his vesting option for next season, making it a straight team decision whether to pick him up at $15MM or instead pay a $2MM buyout. But that doesn’t mean his return won’t be interesting, as Utley remains a very plausible August trade candidate. Indeed, the Phillies veteran is drawing interest around the league, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees are among the teams expected to have some interest in adding Utley down the stretch. Of course, his appeal will depend heavily upon the form he shows upon his return.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty provided some interesting thoughts on his team’s trade deadline moves, especially the Johnny Cueto deal, in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (links to Twitter). “We had the Cueto deal done, then another team came in,” said Jocketty, “and I was actually able to get a little more out of the Royals.”
- One key piece of that deal, of course, was lefty Brandon Finnegan, who Jocketty says will be expected to work as a starter at Triple-A before joining the big league club in September. After entering the year with 28 days of service and tacking on about 37 more thus far in 2015, Finnegan still has six years of team control remaining and won’t line up as a Super Two candidate even if he spends next month (and all of next year) on the Cincinnati staff.
- Jocketty also discussed the Reds‘ timeline to return to contention (Twitter link), saying that “our plan at this point is that we realistically have a real good shot in 2017.” While he praised the team’s “nucleus,” Jocketty’s statement seems to suggest that next season will be something of a regrouping year. The club has worked to fill its system with young arms after parting with Cueto and Mike Leake, but it remains to be seen how and when they will develop into productive big leaguers. With several big contracts limiting flexibility, and players like Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce entering their final years of control, it will be interesting to see whether Cinci pursues further trades over the winter.
- Braves GM John Hart also discussed his team’s role in the three-team, thirteen-player deadline deal with the Dodgers and Marlins with MLB Network Radio (Twitter links). He confirmed that the club was motivated primarily by the chance to add the bat of infielder Hector Olivera for a relatively minor commitment (five-years and roughly $30MM after 2015). Atlanta was weighing its options for bolstering its lineup, he indicated, and felt that it would cost too much to compete for the top-level bats set to hit the coming free agent market.
- The Orioles, Rangers and White Sox are three of the likeliest teams to obtain Danny Valencia, an MLB source tells Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. Of these clubs, Chicago would have the inside track since they have the higher waiver priority than Baltimore or Texas (presuming, of course, that the four teams behind the Pale Hose don’t put in a claim of their own). Valencia was rather surprisingly designated for assignment by the Blue Jays and he isn’t expected to clear trade waivers.
- Larry Lucchino could one day land in the Hall of Fame, but the Red Sox have a very capable replacement for their President/CEO in Sam Kennedy, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe writes. “This is Sam’s time,” one team source said. “Everybody in the building knows that.” Abraham writes that there have been internal concerns in the past that Kennedy would leave the Red Sox to become president of another team. Other teams and even businesses outside of baseball have recruited Kennedy over the years. Now, he’ll stay in Boston as he succeeds Lucchino.
- The AL East landscape changed at the trade deadline, Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun writes. The Blue Jays stole all the headlines in the division, but Schmuck believes that the Orioles found better offensive chemistry with their acquisition of Gerardo Parra. Schmuck also gives his thoughts on the rest of the division, including the Yankees, who apparently hold their farm system’s best talent in very high esteem.
- Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, an August trade candidate, is making progress on his rehab assignment and could rejoin the big league club soon, as MLB.com’s Nick Suss writes. When he does get back, he’ll go straight to the starting lineup, even if he’s not in Philly for long. “There’s no way I’m just going to let him sit on the bench,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Because he’s got value and I think he’s got a lot left.”
- Danny Espinosa has played a big role for the Nationals this season, but with their regular infield starters back, Espinosa is in a playing-time crunch, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Times writes. His versatility makes him a prime bench piece, however, and as Janes notes, Espinosa could well find regular time again if veterans need a rest or if the Nats suffer further injuries.
- Despite selling off key pieces at the deadline, Marlins president Michael Hill says there will be brighter days ahead in Miami. “There’s optimism in South Florida,” Hill told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter). “We feel like we have a great core…We’re looking at an ace in Jose Fernandez and one of the best power hitters in Giancarlo Stanton.”
The Cubs may pursue Phillies second baseman Chase Utley prior to the August trade deadline, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Utley will begin a rehab assignment tomorrow. He would need 251 plate appearances to activate a 2016 option, an exceedingly unlikely event. The former star has struggled this season with a .179/.257/.275 slash. However, a .186 BABIP suggests a rebound is possible. He’s owed about $5MM over the rest of the season. The Cubs would look to have the Phillies cover part of his salary.
An Utley acquisition would provide depth to existing middle infielders like Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez. If the club lost patience with Castro, they could opt to use Russell at shortstop with Utley filling in at second base. The interest could also be purely for his veteran leadership. The Angels and at least one other team are also considering Utley per Wittenmyer.
In the days leading up to the trade deadline, the Phillies finally traded ace Cole Hamels, sending him with Jake Diekman and cash to Texas for pitcher Matt Harrison, top catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and young pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff. Here’s a roundup of reactions to one of the week’s biggest deals.
- The Giants came very close to acquring Hamels — so close, in fact, that Hamels waived his no-trade rights to allow the Phillies to trade him to San Francisco, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
- The Phillies got a strong return for Hamels, Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com writes. Alfaro looks like the key to the deal for Philadelphia, but the Phillies also got interesting pieces in Thompson and Williams, and they actually can use Harrison as well, even though he’s in the deal partially to offset Hamels’ salary.
- Philadelphia got “quantity and quality” in the Hamels trade, says MLB.com’s Jim Callis (video link). Callis says Thompson’s slider is, at its best, one of the top sliders in the minors, and Williams has great bat speed and has dramatically improved his plate discipline. Alfaro needs to improve his polish in some areas, but he has terrific tools, including his arm strength.
- The Phillies could continue trading in August, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Chase Utley could be a candidate to be dealt, assuming his injured ankle heals and he waives his no-trade privileges. Aaron Harang and Jeff Francoeur are possibilities as well.
The Angels prefer to acquire a bat that is controlled beyond the 2015 season, but they’re warming to the idea of acquiring a rental, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com tweets. That includes Yoenis Cespedes, though the cost of acquisition will obviously be key to any deal. At the very least, he adds, they’d like to add a bench piece they’re comfortable starting a couple of times per week.
Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register also hears that the Angels are opening up to not only the idea of rental players, but also to the idea of adding a right-handed bat. (Previously, the Angels have been said to prefer left-handed bats due to the heavily right-handed nature of their lineup.) According to Fletcher, the only player that seems off limits in the Angels’ minor league system is Sean Newcomb. Pitchers Chris Ellis and Nate Smith — two of the club’s top-ranked prospects — could potentially be had. Fletcher adds (via Twitter) that Andrew Heaney is probably not available either.
Gonzalez wrote yesterday that the Angels are seeking both a leadoff hitter and a power bat to slot in fifth behind Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the batting order, though they may not be able to acquire both. In a followup tweet to the article, Gonzalez says he’s getting the sense that the Angels would prefer the power bat. David Freese has spent the bulk of the time hitting fifth in Anaheim this season but has batted a fairly pedestrian .240/.308/.409.
As for the leadoff role, Johnny Giavotella has assumed that spot lately but struggled there, and his .261/.315/.349 batting line is below the league average. The Angels, according to Gonzalez, are monitoring Chase Utley‘s rehab as a possible alternative. However, they’d only have true interest were the cost “minimal” and should Utley begin to show his old form at the plate. (Utley, of course, is a potential August trade candidate, as one would think his contract, injury troubles and lack of production make him a lock to clear trade waivers.)
Ben Revere has been oft-connected to the Angels in the past, as has Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce. Gonzalez speculates (on Twitter), too, that Gerardo Parra of the Brewers might be a nice rental piece for the Angels.
“This isn’t do-or-die for us,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “In the end, it’s about, ‘What is the return?’ and, ‘Is this the right return?’ If it is, we’ll move forward. And if it’s not, we won’t.”
There are about six clubs still in talks with Philadelphia on the club’s staff ace, per Stark. But sources from other teams indicate that they believe the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rangers are most likely to land him. We heard yesterday that the Astros were also still in the mix, along with Los Angeles and Texas.
Regarding the interest of the Dodgers, Stark says that Philly has asked for as many as six quality prospects in a package that would not include top youngsters Corey Seager and Julio Urias. While Los Angeles won’t give up that volume, per the report, the industry consensus is that the Dodgers are in the lead.
As for the Cubs, rival executives tell Stark that Chicago is offering a deal centered around Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez (though it’s unclear whether both would conceivably be included together). But Philadelphia is not enthused about either player. The Red Sox, meanwhile, just sent top evaluator Allard Baird to watch Hamels throw and obviously have a stacked farm from which to deal. While they (like the Rangers) don’t really profile as a traditional buyer, Boston could still act with the future in mind.
Stark goes on to discuss some other, less likely suitors as well as the impact of the team’s upper-level front office transition on trade talks. It’s a lengthy and information-packed piece that you’ll want to read in full for all the latest on Hamels.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is obviously also listening to offers for closer Jonathan Papelbon. According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter), however, the Phillies are having trouble gaining “traction” on a deal. Papelbon’s $13MM option for next year, which is all but certain to vest at this point, “remains a sticking point,” per the report. Stark also adds (on Twitter) that, despite prior interest, the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Dodgers are not presently involved with talks regarding the reliever.
Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com provides an update on veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who says he is progressing as he works his way back from a sprained right ankle. As Salisbury notes, Utley could profile as an August trade piece if he can return to health and show increased productivity. While Philadelphia rebuffed the Dodgers and Marlins last winter when they asked about Utley, explaining that he was not interested in waiving his no-trade protection, Salisbury says that the 36-year-old “seems to have softened his position” on being dealt since that time.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed his team’s trade deadline situation in an appearance on the WIP Morning Show (relayed by CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman). Broadly, Amaro said that he has had “great dialogue with a lot of clubs on several fronts” and expressed confidence in “get[ting] some things done.”
The first and most obvious topic of conversation was closer Jonathan Papelbon, who yesterday aired his view that Philadelphia needs to make a decision on dealing him. Amaro praised the veteran reliever as a competitor and excellent pitcher, but said that “he doesn’t know anything about the front office.”
Regarding Papelbon’s market, Amaro indicated that he sees plenty of opportunity to strike a trade. “There’s live discussions going on right now regarding Pap,” said Amaro. “I do believe that there’s enough of a market that we can probably get something done. But again, I don’t necessarily believe in ‘probably.’ … There’s a lot of clubs that are interested in a lot of our players and we have to sort through it and make the right deals.”
In the course of addressing Papelbon’s comments, which touched upon the decisionmaking process of the front office’s highest levels, Amaro said that there was internal clarity about how deadline decisions would be handled. Namely, current president Pat Gillick holds final authority, with incoming replacement Andy MacPhail serving more of an advisory function at present.
“I’m the GM and Pat is my boss,” Amaro explained. “As in all these deals, particularly ones that are as complicated and have so much money involved, these are all discussions that we’ve had. … It’s something that’s discussed, not just with me, but also with my boss. And that’s the same structure that we have right now. Right now, Andy is part of the decision-making process, but only in so much that he’s an observer and someone who’s going to give us his opinion. Really, Pat is the one who ultimately will make the ultimate decisions.”
Even as he gave indications that Papelbon could indeed be on the move, as is widely expected, Amaro downplayed the possibility of receiving value for starter Aaron Harang. “As far as Aaron Harang is concerned,” said Amaro, “he had a foot problem and he’s dealing with an injury so you can’t really trade a guy that’s got an injury. Frankly, there was no real market for him prior to him getting injured.”
Of course, Philly’s biggest trade chip remains lefty Cole Hamels. Amaro said he was not concerned with the fact that the staff ace had suffered a rough outing in his most recent start, saying that “people know what he is.”
The embattled Phillies GM also touched upon his recent comments indicating that long-time second baseman Chase Utley has lost his starting role. Amaro said he did not regret “being straight and honest” on the topic, and added that he expects the veteran to “get opportunities to play” once he returns to health. As to whether there was any possibility of Utley calling it quits, Amaro made his own view clear: “No, he’s absolutely, unequivocally not going to [retire]. He’s got plenty in the tank left.”