League Evaluators Think Chase Utley Could Open up to Trade


Prior to the 2015 season opening, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe said that the feeling around the league was that as the Phillies struggled through a long season, Chase Utley would become more open to waiving his 10-and-5 rights and accepting a trade to a contender. Though Utley has gotten off to the slowest start of his career, ESPN’s Buster Olney echoed what Cafardo heard in an article today.

"Over the past year, other teams have been told that Chase Utley will not accept a trade out of Philadelphia. But there is some curiosity about whether this will change, in the face of the Phillies’ dim prospects now or in the immediate future."

Olney also says that most teams feel Cole Hamels would like to leave Philadelphia, but that isn’t exactly breaking news.

In terms of moving Utley, it really comes down to him becoming more open to the idea of a trade. Of course, he needs to raise his .119 average and begin to put together a few solid months, but there’s little reason to think that teams around the league wouldn’t be interested in Utley if he became seriously available.

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reported late in Spring Traning that Utley would be ‘easily attainable’ to any interested teams, assuming they were willing to take on his deal. Hardball Talk’s Bill Baer did point out, however, that vesting options in Utley’s contract make him a risk to take on in a trade.

"Utley’s contract is quite interesting: he signed a two-year, $27 million extension with the Phillies in August 2013, but it came with a $2 million buyout and three vesting options for the 2016-18 seasons, which would pay him $15 million each season. For those options to vest, Utley would have to accrue 500 or more plate appearances in the preceding season. If any of the three options don’t vest, they become team options worth between $5-11 million depending on how many days on the disabled list he spent in the previous season. Utley is earning $15 million this season, which includes a $10 million base salary plus a $5 million incentive he reached last season due to spending 15 or fewer days on the disabled list with a knee injury."

Utley batted 589 times in 2014, but that was the first time that he had batted over 500 times since 2009. The Phillies have given Utley some early off-days, including doing so Sunday, that will make him reaching the 500 at-bat plateau less likely. Still, the last thing a team trading for Utley wants to worry about is having him get hot down the stretch and trying to micro-manage him so that he helps said team make the playoffs, but doesn’t reach 500 at-bats and have his $15 million option for 2016 vest.

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If Utley plays very well for his new team, they might not be that worried about the idea of overpaying him for one season, but the problem comes in the fact that if his option for 2016 vests, the 2017 and 2018 ones, both also worth $15 million, are still on the table.

Should Utley become seriously available, it would be interesting to see what types of teams would be interested in Utley. As Gonzalez mentioned in his Utley report, there are some defensive concerns about Utley around the league, ones that are unlikely to be alleviated as he reaches his late 30’s. American League teams may feel they can effectively use Utley as a DH on some days, or permanently, and have him hit at a better clip without the stress on his legs. The same could be said for National League (or American League) teams that are looking for an upgrade at first-base. But they may not want to take on all of his money for this year and/or be assured that if any of his future obligations kick in, the Phillies would assist in paying for the deals.

Of course, if Utley asks for any future options to be guaranteed to approve a trade, interest would become non-existent.