The Angels are “exploring the possibility” of a trade for Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (All Twitter links). However, as Gonzalez notes, the Angels don’t feel they have a great deal of roster flexibility, as they don’t see an easy call to option or designate for assignment in order to clear room. Gonzalez adds that the extent of the Angels’ interest isn’t clear, especially with Johnny Giavotella hitting well this month, although Utley could see some reps at first base in Anaheim as well.
Utley’s still owed about $4.43MM this season, plus a $2MM buyout on a club option that will not automatically vest, as he’ll fall shy of 500 plate appearances required for that guarantee to trigger. The 36-year-old has already cleared waivers, making him eligible to be dealt to any team, but his 10-and-5 rights are still in effect, giving him the power to veto any trade of which he does not approve. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported yesterday that Utley was seeking a guarantee of playing time in any trade.
The 28-year-old Giavotella has somewhat surprisingly held down the Angels’ second base gig all season, hitting .271/.320/.359 along the way. Defensive metrics peg him as sub-par at second base, however, leading both rWAR and fWAR to value him as little more than a replacement-level option when combined with his slightly below-average bat. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Utley would provide a superior alternative, as he hit poorly all season before landing on the DL for more than a month. He’s 7-for-17 since being activated, but that does little to nothing to erase his earlier woes.
Some may question the aforementioned lack of roster flexibility on the Angels, but the team clearly feels committed to keeping Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston on the roster despite the absence of offensive production (.126/.181/.195). Shane Victorino hasn’t hit since his acquisition, but he does have just 27 plate appearances with the Halos and would figure to have a lengthier leash than that. Matt Joyce has struggled at the plate all season long, but he’s on the disabled list due to concussion symptoms as opposed to occupying a spot on the active roster.