Candlesticks, as anybody who has seen
would know, make a fine wedding gift.
But the Phillies skipped the candlesticks yesterday and instead wrapped up second baseman Chase Utley, who was married Saturday, with a seven-year, $85 million contract extension that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2013. Utley, 28, will make $4.5 million this season, $7.5 million next season, $11 million in 2009 and $15 million in each of the next four years.
The contract includes a $2 million signing bonus, plus award and performance bonuses and a partial no-trade clause, which will allow Utley to choose a handful of teams that he could block in a trade each season.
Utley, on his honeymoon in Mexico, was unavailable for comment, but clearly his willingness to make a deal made life easier for Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who spearheaded the negotiations for the Phillies, and agent Arn Tellum.
"This is about Chase, what he's done for us and what we feel he's going to do for us in the future," Amaro said.
"Chase was the leader and the driving force behind this deal," Tellum said. "Chase is a smart, involved person in all aspects of his life. He really has taken to Philadelphia. He would say [that] even though he was born and raised in California, he feels he is a Philadelphian now, and this is where he wants to play and hopefully finish his career and hopefully retire as a Phillie. And hopefully he'll go down in the same breath as Phillies greats like Mike Schmidt.
"I think what motivated him is that he's excited about the young nucleus on the team," Tellum said. "He thinks this team is very close to contending for the World Series."
The Phillies bought out Utley's three seasons of salary arbitration and his first four years of free agency.
"Chase recognized that he was potentially giving up some dollars in the free-agent years, but for Chase it's never been about being the highest-paid player or maximizing every dollar," Tellum said. "The security was very important."
Utley's signing means the Phillies could have Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins together through at least the next four seasons.
Rollins' contract runs through 2010, with a club option for 2011. Howard cannot become a free agent until after 2011.
Howard's contract status has caused some angst among Phillies fans, despite the fact that the first baseman will not be eligible for salary arbitration until after this season at the earliest.
"We think the world of Ryan," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "He's a wonderful talent and a wonderful kid. Certainly there will be a day that he will be rewarded. But today I think we should focus on Chase, and Ryan certainly will be taken care of. It might be this year. It might be down the line."
Before the Phillies turn their attention to Howard, they will try to finalize contracts for righthanders Brett Myers and Geoff Geary, who are their two remaining players eligible for salary arbitration. The Phillies have discussed both a one-year and a multiyear deal with Myers, who can become a free agent after the 2008 season. It's unclear how close the two sides are to a multiyear deal.
Last season, the infield trio of Utley, Howard and Rollins led the majors in runs scored (362), hits (576), home runs (115) and RBIs (334). That means they outproduced Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees and Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Jose Reyes of the New York Mets.
"That's one thing that Chase and Arn looked at also," Gillick said. "That's a pretty good nucleus to start from. Some of the other young people like Cole Hamels are expected to step forward. But to have the core of your club under contract only gives you the opportunity to add to that nucleus. This is a great nucleus to add from."
Utley hit .309 with 40 doubles, 32 homers, 102 RBIs and 131 runs last season. He also had a 35-game hitting streak, which tied for the 10th-longest in baseball history. Last year, he played second base for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, started at second base for the National League all-star team, and played on an all-star team in Japan during the off-season.
The Phillies hope Utley, Howard, Rollins, Myers and Hamels are a core that can return the Phillies to the postseason for the first time since 1993. Utley seems more than comfortable stepping into that leadership role.
"Once we made some moves at the trade deadline and moved some veterans, it opened the door for Chase to be more of a leader," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think his hustle, determination and Pete Rose style make people look to him as a leader, and as a vocal leader. His opinion counts. He's learning to voice it."