Ron Costello

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trading Utley Would Take the Pressure Off

You may see some interesting behind the scenes maneuvering in baseball this week.

Normally, when a veteran like Chase Utley goes on the DL, he gets his job back when he returns.


But this isn't normal or usual baseball in Philadelphia. Not anymore. Exceptions are made, and in this case, the everyday second baseman, Cesar Hernandez, is not only doing a good job, he has shined offensively and defensively — on a team that's playing winning baseball in front of larger crowds.

Suddenly and surprisingly, Phillies baseball became exciting, again. Plus, Junior pulled off the trade that had to be made, giving up the icon ace for more prospects.

There'll be more young pitchers competing  for a spot next year, than at a Mormon youth ministry meeting.

In the course of a month, the Phillies have gone from a team run into the ground and buried, to a team realistically competing for a post spot in 2016.

But the offense still needs tinkering and returning Utley to second won't happen, or shouldn't happen. On the other hand, the Phillies don't want to make Utley a bench jockey, either.

The only way to avoid the controversy would be to trade Utley.

And the only way to do that is for the Phillies to immediate place Utley on waivers when he comes off the DL on Friday. They can put him on waivers then take him off, gauging baseball's interest in Utley.

If a club claims him off waivers — and NL clubs get first choice — it has two days to work out a trade with the Phillies. But another club could block the trade by claiming Utley, too, just to keep him from a competitor.

If Utley passes through waivers (unclaimed), he can then be traded to any team.

But here are the problems: First, Utley's $10 million salary and second, his dismal numbers. Moreover, a club would have to give up a semi-decent prospect for the Phillies to make the move.

But here's the bait.

If the Phillies  cover his salary for the remainder of the season — Utley's a free agent at the season's end because now he can't get the needed at bats for his 2016 vesting option to kick in — it may not be a bad gamble for a club.

He says his ankles feel good, as good as any time last season. In rehab at Lehigh Valley he was hitting and running the bases like the old Utley. He wants to play and the gamer in him says he's still got gas in the tank.

Just not enough gas to move Hernandez. I think it would be a huge mistake to not let Hernandez play every day.

The Phillies could try to spot start Utley at second and first, and let him pinch hit. But it's obvious that Mr. Utley doesn't have a future with the Phillies — as a starting second baseman.

Let's see what happens.

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