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Pros and Cons of Chase Utley Extension

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, August 08, 2013 09:39 AM | Comments: 45
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

CHUTLEYPROS:

1. He’s still good:

Although injuries have kept him off the field for large chunks of three of the last four seasons, Chase Utley still performs when healthy, as you’re seeing this year. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs had a fantastic tweet last night, noting Utley is still 27th in baseball over the last three seasons with an 11.7 WAR. That’s better than Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, Carlos Beltran, and Hanley Ramirez, among many others. Since the beginning of 2012, he’s ranked 5th in WAR among all second basemen.

2. They still need power:

You’re definitely seeing Utley begin to decline, but the numbers are still solid. He’s hitting for power in a lineup that mostly lacks it with 15 home runs. If Utley had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .505 slugging percentage would rank 15th in the National League.

3. It’s fair market value:

If you asked every GM around baseball whether or not they would ink Chase Utley to a two-year, $27 million deal, the overwhelming answer would be “yes.” And over the next two seasons would you rather have Chase Utley at $13.5 million or Robinson Cano at $23.5 million? Because that’s what it would cost to get Cano, except you’ll have to tack about four more seasons on the contract. If the third season was guaranteed I would have a major issue with it, but Amaro seemingly held firm. Plus, money really isn’t an issue with this team anyway with a massive TV contract just up the road.

4. Second Base is ugly:

Over pretty much every other second baseman that would be available to the Phillies, he pushes them closer to being a winning team in the short term. Save for Robinson Cano, there isn’t much available in free agency. And say what you want about Cesar Hernandez, but he too is an unknown. I, as much as anyone, wants to see what Hernandez can do. But does it make sense to risk that position on an unknown when you have something that works there right now? My colleague Eric Seidman posted a fantastic tweet on the subject stating that even with Utley playing 110 games and Hernandez/Galvis filling in for the rest, the Phils would probably still get 4.5 WAR from that position, which would be among the tops in the game. So even if Utley is in the fold, Hernandez can give positive contributions.

5. He stays a Phillie for life:

I understand baseball a business and loyalty is lacking nowadays. However, you try to build your team around guys like Utley and hope they stick around forever. There aren’t many other players you feel comfortable doing that with. There is still sentimental value with Utley – just look around the ballpark. If he hadn’t been producing, then it’s easy to say he doesn’t deserve to be a Phillie for life, but that’s clearly not the case as the numbers above prove. Plus, weren’t we upset when Brian Dawkins left Philly prematurely? Why wouldn’t we be upset if the same were true with Utley following this season?

5a. He’s still marketable:

It’s Ruben Amaro’s job to field a contending team, every season. If you like that or not, Amaro is going about it in that way. Plus, Chase Utley still sells jerseys, t-shirts, and everything else that has his name on it. Cole Hamels said following his start on Wednesday night that Chase Utley is the face of this franchise. When you think of the Phillies, his face stands out. There is value in that to a team. And unless Amaro has a change of heart, he’s going to be in win-now mode for 2014.

6. With Utley, the Phillies can still contend:

If the Phillies want to win the NL East next season and play for a World Series, Chase Utley helps you do that. Cesar Hernandez might be the second baseman of the future of this organization, but he’s not ready to be a middle-of-the-order bat that can take over games on his own. Utley is still that guy, as you’ve seen recently. It doesn’t all fall onto the shoulders of Utley to get them there, as Ruben Amaro has quite a task ahead of him this offseason in terms of strengthening the roster around him.

CONS:

1. He’s not as good as he once was:

Utley is on the decline.Age will do that, and at 34-years-old he’s still producing, but not at the level we’re accustomed to. His on-base percentage is on pace to be the lowest of his career since he began playing full time in 2005. Utley’s dWAR is currently at 0.2, which would be, by far, the lowest of his fine defensive career.

2. He can’t stay healthy:

Assuming he plays tonight, of a possible 600 games since the start of 2010, Utley has played in 384. That’s poor. And if Utley isn’t on the field, he isn’t any good to the team. He has proven to be fairly healthy this season – except for his oblique issue. The knees haven’t been a problem, which is one of the reasons the Phillies have moved on with him in their plans. But as we know, Father Time always wins and it’s not going to get better from the point forward. And the way Utley plays – balls out every play, every at-bat – only hurts his ability to stay on the field for 162 games.

3. What about a youth movement?:

People keep asking about Cesar Hernandez and going forward with a youth movement. It’s a fair topic. Hernandez has done nothing but progress as he goes up the ladder, hitting .310 this season at Lehigh Valley while playing a solid second base. He’s also dabbled in center field. At 23, Hernandez represents the future and with the way the Phillies are going, why not get the wheels in motion on the future rather than wait too long?

4. He’s not the leader everyone thinks he is:

This one is slightly more complicated. With media at hyper-levels, we expect athletes to step up and speak and be “leaders”. Chase Utley isn’t that guy. Sure, he leads by example, playing hard on the field, but when do we ever hear from him off the field? The Phillies have been lacking veteran leadership over the past two seasons, and Utley hasn’t helped in that department. In fairness, we don’t see what goes on behind closed doors and what we do see is a quiet face of the franchise.

5. That’s nearly $50 million for three players in the infield:

At some point, the Phillies need to stop spending on aging players, and they could have walked the other way on Utley due to the fact that they have Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard already making a combined $36 million per season at least through next year. By adding in Utley’s roughly $13.5 million per season, you’re looking at $50 million locked up in three aging vets. Is that the best way to allocate money? I’d argue for the pro side by saying Howard is a sunk cost and other players contracts in a non-capped league shouldn’t prevent holding onto a very productive player at a very important position.

6. With Utley, they Phillies still won’t contend:

This has more to do with the job the GM does, not what Utley does on the field. But if you feel they’re better off allocating that $27 million elsewhere, that’s fine. That’s a lot of money that could be used toward other needs. The question then becomes, what will happen this offseason?  And do you think Amaro has the wherewithal to put a solid plan together.

CONCLUSION:

The pros outweigh the cons in my mind. This contract is only two years, and if it’s more than two seasons, it means Utley is healthy and likely producing at a high enough level that the vesting option shouldn’t be a problem. The money itself isn’t a problem, either. Its fair market value for a guy who is still producing. There’s certainly worry that he won’t be able to stay healthy, but there is a way to keep everyone happy. Use Cesar Hernandez as a super utility guy that can give Utley and other infielders a breather if need be. And in two years, Hernandez will be 25, still under team control, and ready to be the guy. For now, Utley remains the guy at 2B and the face of the franchise. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1668 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 120 Dave P

    Avatar of Dave P

    In case anyone hasn’t yet read it, here’s Chase Utley’s interview in Philadelphia magazine – http://www.phillymag.com/articles/real-chase-utley-phillies/

    And a good excerpt from it regarding his leadership -
    “…he’s also the guy who, if a teammate doesn’t hustle out a ground ball, will be waiting at his usual position along the dugout railing to lash the offender with a devastating look. Serious business, baseball, and his teammates say he’s their unquestioned leader—although they shake their heads and laugh about that, too, over just how intensely dialed-in Chase is.”

    I am glad to see Chase stick around.

     
  • Posts: 0 TID

    People are really overrating this “looming” TV deal.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Possibly. Do tell.

       
      • Posts: 0 TID

        So the deal is up in 2015 right? There’s no possible way these revenues – or more specifically, PROJECTED revenues – will keep climbing. It’s inevitably going to hit a ceiling and then come down.

        Sure, there’s the thought that a new network like Fox Sports 1 will increase a bidding war, but when a majority of this area relies on Comcast – whom televises Phils games now – who’s going to bite the hand that feeds them? Comcast could easily just blanket that station in this region, which doesn’t make a profit for Fox obiviously. Plus, it is statistical fact, and one with much significance, that there is a growing number of people just not getting cable in any format – using things like Netflix, Hulu, Aerio, watching more non-traditional programs on phones, tablets, etc.

        Then there’s this issue of people thinking that sports are as demanded, or DVR proof, as the claims that are being made for this argument (and the data doesn’t support it). And the wildly high fees that cable companies are charging for these individual channels, which keep going up and up (decidely so because they know what broadcast channels are paying for the rights to televise these events). But there’s going to be a breaking point. Especially, as all of these cable choices WILL become more ala carte.

        It’s just that 2 years is a LONG time away and the idea of hitting the numbers the Dodgers did, or coming close to, is just preposterous. Between now and then, these financial people in these companies will have a better hold on exact numbers for the metrics of who is watching what and what that is worth.

        I hope they rake in as much cash as we hope they will. But hoping and knowing are two completely different things. It’s like the same hope we have for this team in spring training and what they ACTUALLY are. I just wouldn’t get my hopes up in the same way when it comes to the dollars they’ll generate with a new deal – like it’s going to solve all of our problems over night or something.

         
      • Posts: 4599 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        There is also a chance that the current payments being made for baseball TV deals could be in a growing bubble like the real estate market. It could burst by fall 2015. They could go down just because advertisers may analyze the deals they’ve previously made and decide they aren’t worth what they thought they were. Sometimes it’s just bad timing.

        Or they may be a windfall, in which case the price could go up.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        I can’t disagree with what TID laid out, but I’ve heard it described as that the Phillies are facing either a windfall, or, taking those concerns into account, a huge payday. The bigger issue, to me, is teams locking up players sooner for their FA years, meaning that the talent pool will be smaller in free agency.

         
    • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

      Part of the overrated part is believing that the money will be spent on free agents who will turn the franchise around. The problem with that thinking is the relative dearth of talent on the free agency rolls throughout the next two years. In fact Case Utley was rated by mlbtraderumors.com as the 10th best free agent available in this year’s class.

       
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Utley has been the 22nd most productive position player in baseball over the last 12 months (by fWAR). I wonder how many of the other 21 are free agents — probably a handful, and then add some pitchers. 10th doesn’t seem far off, and in fact may be about right if you also factor in that he’s a little older.

        Agreed on the changing free agent market though.

         
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      This message, I agree with. But when you got into detail as to your reason for wariness, we sort of parted ways on the reasons..

      I agree that viewer habits have changed, and are continuing to evolve. But I have no idea how much of a factor that is in the cycle. If you asked me when free agency started 40 years ago how long would it be before it peaked, I certainly would not have guessed this long, and it still doesn’t look like top flight talent will be taking cuts quite yet. So the change in viewer habits are visible concern, but maybe affects ad decisions more than property rights to this point.

      Plus, regarding FOX, how long is it now since they started buying sports property to claim a niche? At least 10 years since Pat and John bolted CBS. And if they prioritize local baseball rights as they have, they still may participate in driving the rights up.

      I think a concern I have is one I’m very general on. Buying the property is one thing, selling the time is different. Last year, the Phils local TV ratings dropped off quite a bit…I forget the exact amount, it was something like 4th biggest drop in the sport of local viewership. And I know you have to think long term if you hook up for 10 or 15 years, which I may be wrong on, but suspect that’s the length of the next TV deal, but what’s watchable with this franchise at this point? And how confident are the TV decisionmakers in the franchise’s ability to feel as though viewership will uptick.

      Two things increase viewership above most, or all else. Winning and star power. Winning, well, even if the Phils improve on their own lot, their 5 year post season run coincided with a lot of right place, right time, (not all, some excellent decisions were made as well). Now, while success is often fleeting, you have 4 other division contenders whoi don’t figure to be in the same down, or improving cycle they were.

      As for the star power part of it, as an example of it’s importance, when ARod played the other night (first game back), the Yanks had their largest 1 game audience since May. You can’t be overly negative or wary, but there isn’t a lot of visible individual appeal that makes a spender want to overpay.

      So I agree that it’s hasty to get overconfident about a huge tv deal. And it’s not like media rights are the entire answer anyway. But they may still bag a boatload. It seems dependent on what the prospective buyers prioritize, and as is always the case with the Phillies, how the good old boy friendships affect the business decision.

       
  • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

    Michael Young has cleared waivers according to Ken Rosenthal. Stay tuned for more excitement!

     
    • Posts: 4599 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      For all that were so worried at the deadline, you can now relax. He can freely be traded to any team that wants him.

      The only restriction is that if a playoff contender wants him, they have to do it by the end of August of he can’t be on the playoff roster.

      I’m still hoping for a “double Young” trade to the Rangers that need an outfielder, and a guy they know and trust. But if the Yankees want to make an offer again, that’s fine too.

       
      • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

        I’m with you on that one lefty

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        If a contender really wanted him, wouldn’t they have claimed him to get exclusive negotiating rights? Yes, maybe an injury will occur and a team will come calling, but with ARod now playing in NY, Young’s primary 7/31 suitor is out of the market for him. I still think Young will finish the season here or the Phils will get less fothan the Yanks offered last week.

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        My iPad went haywire. The end of the final sentence should read, “less for him than the Yanks offered last week.”

         
    • Posts: 0 hk

      As I mentioned to Lefty below, I see Young clearing waivers as a bad thing for the Phillies right now, but it’s subject to becoming a good thing if a team loses a corner IF to injury in the next three weeks. If there’s a contender that wanted Young right now, they would have claimed him to have exclusive negotiating rights with the Phillies and to block any of their competition from being able to acquire him. The Yankees, who were reported to be the most interested party last Wednesday are not interested because (a) ARod is back and (b) they are for all intents and purposes out of the playoff race. Be prepared to see one or both Youngs to continue taking plate appearances from Ruf and Asche until the end of the season.

       
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    FaCT IS, WE ARE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION BY SIGNING UTLEY FOR TWO MORE YEARS….BOTH FINANCIALLY AND REBUILDING. DUMB MOVE. SENTIMENTAL, YES, PRODUCTIVE: HELL NO !!!!

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Not productive? Bart, I’ll take some of whatever you’re enjoying.

       
      • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

        It must be strong stuff lol

         
  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    If you asked every GM around baseball whether or not they would ink Chase Utley to a two-year, $27 million deal, the overwhelming answer would be “yes.”

    That’s a rather far fetched conclusion\, particularly with the word overwhelming, implying decent sized majority.

    Not that we’ll ever know, but the enthusiasm of those that would jump at it (Dodgers, for example) doesn’t offset those that would pass. It’s just a guess anyway, so stating it like what comes across as fact doesn’t seem well advised.

    Plus, it isn’t necessarily a 2 year deal. The alleged option(s) may make it about a 40 million dollar deal which at least draws another consideration into the formula.

     
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      By the way, in the article, Pat points to a positive as with Chase on board, the Phillies can still contend. Depending on how much you want to simplify the point, which in a deepeer sense does counter the fact that the Phils lost 10 of 11 last year when Chase came back. And what’s their record this year in games he’s started?

      Overall, sure he’s a help, all things considered. But he’s not a singular answer to winning like they don’t still have a ton of work to do with what’s probably a constrained budget.

       
      • Posts: 0 George

        I think you need to reread the article, particularly the paragraph that goes: “It doesn’t all fall onto the shoulders of Utley to get them there, as Ruben Amaro has quite a task ahead of him this offseason in terms of strengthening the roster around him.”

         
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        Ah, the inspiration of someone thinking they know what I need. Isn’t that romantic? Makes my spine tingle while I jump as high and say, “Yes, master, yes!”

        And to think, a ridiculous waste of space like those words, not to mention someone thinking they know my needs still don’t change the fact that in the last 2 years, the Phils haven’t won despite Chase being whatever you wanna call what he’s been.

        Everlovingly,

        #ridiculous
        .

         
      • Posts: 0 George

        How’s this then: You absolutely MUST re-read that article, because you obviously missed a few things in it.

        Usually you’re pretty reasonable, but your response to a simple suggestion that you might have missed something is downright assinine, ridiculous, ill-conceived and insulting.

         
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Chase Utley got signed because of the TV deal, plain and simple. In your infield, you have two guys that are ready to play, one at 3B and one at 2B. Cesar Hernandez is tearing it up. Now he has nowhere to play unless he goes to the OF and then Ruf gets bumped. I presume that you would now trade Hernandez since he is blocked everywhere. I love Utley, but I have learned that whenever you mention an athlete’s name and the word “degenerative” is mentioned in the same sentence, you should probably stay away.

    Bottom Line: Utley may till have more to give – but Hernandez has to play. He’s maxed out in the minors. Thats why we have minor leagues – to groom younger players to replace older players or players that get traded. Its a shame.

    The Dipsy

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      They also have minor leagues to groom younger players to be traded to other teams. If any team has a blocked player, he’s usually traded for someone who plays a different position.

       
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Dipsy, why does Hernandez have to play for the Phillies? If he has value, he can be traded. Problem is finding a scout who thinks he has value beyond bench guy or below average starter.

       
  • Posts: 0 George

    Given the lack of available talent at 2nd, I think resigning Utley wasn’t particularly stupid and it wasn’t particularly intelligent. It was just plain neccessary.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Schmenk – I think Hernandez is a 23 year old switch hitter who has a good offensive game and can steal bases. If we’re going to trade the young promising guy so we can keep the old broken down guy (which seems ass backwards to me) I just hope we get value.

    The Dipsy

     
    • Posts: 0 BonsaiSteve

      OK lets pretend Hernandez is a utility player for the Phiilies–How does he develop mostly sitting on the bench!

       
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Before answering this question, we would need to know into what you expect Hernandez to develop. If you are like most of the scouts and prospects writers, whose opinions are mostly formed by their conversations with scouts, you would only expect him to be a below average starter or a good utility player. In that case, getting 40 to 50 starts per year at 2B, 3B and maybe in the OF plus some more opportunities as a PH, PR and late inning defensive replacement is the perfect way to use him. If you think that he has the chance to be an above average starting 2B, then the Utley signing was a bad one. I prefer to lean on the opinions of those who get paid to scout these guys, so I believe the combination of Utley starting ~130 games at 2B with Hernandez as a utility guy and emergency starter if Utley gets hurt is the best way to address 2B and one bench spot in 2014 and 2015.

         
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Utley deserves an opportunity to play for a contender. The Phillies need to clear the cupboard where and when possible of players whose futures are both EXPENSIVE and on the downward trend. THat means Utley.

    Team like the Tampa Bay Rays, Texan Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, L A Dodgers — teams that are USUALLY in contention — show little sentimentality toward older declining players. That is why they have money for productive free agents and young talent. Take a lesson, Rubin.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      Utley has a no-trade provision in his contract and has stated that he can’t picture himself playing in anything but a Phillies uniform. Sounds to me like he doesn’t particularly care to join any of those “contending” teams.

      I’d agree that the Phils need to be less sentimental, but when a player is as good as Utley still is and there are no replacements handy, you can’t really dump him. I’d also point out that the Braves kept Jones forever and the Yankees (a generally contending team that you missed) have kept Jeter and Rivera past their so-called primes.

      If a player can no longer produce, sentimentality wouldn’t figure in very much. But Utley does produce; more than any other 2nd baseman they could get as a replacement right now.

       
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Hey Schmenkman — I sure am not enjoying the Phillies this year. And I am still a fan after 55 years. I see no future with Utley. He may hit, but at what cost and for how lone. Time to move on,

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      With so many questions on the team, I for one am happy that one spot is going to be held down by one of the best at that position. I can see worrying about whether he will play a full season, and frankly chances are he won’t, but 120 games of one of the best + 40 of average/below average is much better than 160 of average/below average.

       
  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    The formula for Utley’s vesting options is straightforward: He needs to reach 500 plate appearances in 2015 to guarantee himself a $15 million salary in ’16. The same math applies in ’16 and ’17, when Utley will be 39.

    Ruben showing massive constraint.

     
    • Posts: 1189 Manny

      Avatar of Manny

      That’s basically saying: if he plays at a 2010-level (last time he got 500+ plate appearances), then his option for the following year will be vested. I have no problem with that… He had a WAR over 5 in 2010.

       
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        There was a point earlier today on this site this gentleman Carlos wrote I thought was real good. About worrying about who’d replace Chase is short sighted. So to steal his word, I think your view hits that word.

        The guy had a 5 WAR (if you say so, I don’t do WAR) at what, age 31 which, by the way, I don’t know if it’s relavant, but that’s before his knees buckled. And now you’re gonna roll that level of play onto his age 36, or 37, or 38 age season? I won’t say a year of play like that isn’t possible, though the odds disfavor it, but if the guy plays well, and the team sucks, what good’s it do.

        I’m a tweener on his staying. Everyone likes the guy, but there comes a time. Multiply that risk times Cliff and Jimmy, and who knows who else (Howard, of course) , at high salaries, and there isn’t a way in the world I’d say I’m okay with extending him if he plays well with no conscience.

        We’ll see. He’s such a terrific player, you hope it lasts. Not to mention gets supplemented, but that’s another story.

         
      • Posts: 1189 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        My point is that IF he somehow manages to get 500+ plate appearances in 2015 (for example) then that’s because he played well enough –his WAR for that year would probably be greater than 3 (providing more than fair value).

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Ken, yes – Utley had 5.1 WAR in 2010. This year he’s on pace between 4.5 and 5.0, depending on how many of the remaining games he plays (higher end if he misses only a couple, lower end if he misses like 11). He also has 4.9 over the last calendar year (might be a bit higher after today).

         
    • Posts: 4599 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I just read the vesting options on MLBTR, it didn’t seem quite that straightforward. Maybe I’m misunderstanding it? It also says -

      “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.”

      So does both that and the 500 have to happen?

       
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        The 500 minimum doesn’t come into play until 2016. This is how I understand it:

        2014, age 35: 15.0
        2015, age 36: 15.0 (10.0 if he’s on the DL more than 15 days with “specified knee condition”)
        2016, age 37: 15.0, if 500+ PA in 2015. OTHERWISE: 2.0 buyout, or 5.0-11.0, depending on # of 2015 DL days
        2017, age 38: 15.0, if 500+ PA in 2016. OTHERWISE: 2.0 buyout, or 5.0-11.0, depending on # of 2016 DL days
        2018, age 39: 15.0, if 500+ PA in 2017. OTHERWISE: 2.0 buyout, or 5.0-11.0, depending on # of 2017 DL days

        minimum 2 for 27 (15+10+2)
        maximum: 5 for 75

         
      • Posts: 1189 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        Useful info, schmenkman. Thanks.

        Looks like a very fair contract to me. Essentially: when healthy Utley is awesome. And if he’s healthy enough, we’ll have him in red pinstripes for more than two years!

         
      • Posts: 4599 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        That’s much easier to understand, thanks Schmenkman.

         
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    Not only are Utley’s stats more than good enough to justify the contract extension, I think it would be a mistake to underestimate leadership by example. Instinctively, he is by far the smartest all-around player on this team and (IMO) one of the smartest in the game.

    For a young player, watching Utley go about his business may be far more valuable than the coaching he’s receiving (or not receiving) from Charlie and gang.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chris

     
 
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