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Utley needs a new AL role


Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

IT'S NOT THAT Chase Utley cannot play baseball any longer.

It's that Utley cannot play second base for 150 games in the National League any longer. As such, the Phillies should not extend his deal, which expires after this season; they should trade him by Wednesday's deadline.

He never will submit to only hitting, but he shouldn't have to.

The ideal fit: A team where Utley can sometimes play second base, usually play first base and often act as the designated hitter. In that scenario, his chronically bad, 34-year-old knees might last him until he's 40.

He has DH'd only once in his career but Utley is a spectacular pinch-hitter - .320 with five homers in 59 tries - if that indicates anything. When healthy and rested, Utley is one of the best hitters of his generation.

Lately, he is seldom healthy.

After July, given the intensity with which he plays, he never is rested.

A second baseman suffers double the wear and tear as a first baseman, which is where Utley belongs. He won't play first base for the Phillies any time soon; not with Ryan Howard's immovable contract on the books; not with Darin Ruf waiting to occupy the spot.

So, why let him linger in Philadelphia at second base?

The Phillies sent Freddy Galvis, 23, back to Triple A so he would not moulder on the bench. He will never hit like Utley, but he will win Gold Gloves. He might be the best defender in the organization.

The last 23-year-old Phillies prospect blocked by an aging veteran at second base? Chase Utley.

Having lost five of six since the break, the Phillies clearly are sellers now. Utley should be just part of the sale.

Stop-gap veteran third baseman Michael Young needs to be somewhere else, and, for goodness' sake, playing a different position. Third-base prospect Cody Asche is 23, at Triple A, and is producing nicely for a third straight season in the minors, and, well, he can miss groundballs down the line as adeptly as Young can.

If anyone will take on the ridiculous contract of closer/bench coach Jonathan Papelbon, with almost $31 million due through 2015, let them have it. He is a luxury only favorites can afford.

A sale does not mean the Phillies cannot win next season.

Top-three starters Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick should not be sold.

Jimmy Rollins remains viable. Domonic Brown is an All-Star. Howard might be healthy next season for the first time since 2011, and, so, a force. Cesar Hernandez, the best athlete in the organization, is being groomed to do everything except catch and pitch.

The Phillies possess plenty of talent. Not all of that talent will produce. Some will. This is how teams move on.

Don't forget, when Abreu left, so did David Bell, a charismatic third baseman; Cory Lidle, a valuable starter; and relievers Rheal Cormier and Ryan Franklin.

Two months later, with an unlikely September surge helped by Shane Victorino, Clay Condrey, Aaron Fultz and Chris Coste, the Phillies made a run at the wild card. That run turned the franchise around for 5 years.

Phillies fans will be sad to see Utley go, as they should be. For nearly 10 years he embodied daily hope and pure professionalism, extracting every iota of ability by offering maximum effort every play.

Eventually, Phillies fans will be happy if another 5 years of excellence follows.