CHASE UTLEY probably did not leave as much money on the table as Roy Halladay did a few years ago, but the veteran second baseman left enough to make the Phillies' decision to extend his contract seem reasonable.
The $25 million in guaranteed salary the Phillies will pay Utley in 2014 and 2015 is similar to what the Cardinals gave Carlos Beltran, another veteran with a history of knee problems, a couple of years ago. Aside from a $2 million buyout, the rest of the contract is protected by provisions tied to Utley's health: According to FoxSports.com, only $10 million of his 2015 salary is guaranteed, with another $5 million subject to the condition that he miss no more than 15 days with the knee condition that delayed the start of his 2011 and 2012 seasons. After the first 2 years, the deal turns into a series of options that vest at $15 million if Utley reached 500 plate appearances in the previous season. All told, the deal can pay Utley $75 million over 5 years, although only $27 million is guaranteed.
The deal is about as club-friendly as Utley could have been while still being realistic about his worth, a fact that he acknowledged yesterday.
Utley will enjoy full no-trade protection starting Aug. 22, when he becomes a beneficiary of the Collective Bargaining Agreement's "10-and-5" rule, which states that any player who has 10 years of service, the last 5 with the same team, has the right to veto any trade.
Utley said he is confident that he has found a routine that will limit the effects of the knee condition he has battled over the past few years. He said that he has been able to manage his knees effectively since returning from the disabled list last June.
Amaro said that Utley was much more involved in the negotiations between the GM and agent Joel Wolfe than most players are. The same was said of Halladay when he signed a 3-year, $60 million extension to facilitate his trade to the Phillies.
"I wasn't trying to break the bank," Utley said. "I just wanted to be treated fairly. Maybe I left a little money on the table with this deal, but it's not about the money. It's about the commitment. Like I said long ago, there is no better place to play than here."
One of the things that might get decided over the next couple of months is the role Ethan Martin will play on next year's team. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, the 24-year-old righthander should contribute in some capacity. Many scouts who follow the Phillies' organization think that he projects more as a reliever than a starter. But he had a solid outing yesterday in his second big-league start, holding the Cubs to one run in five innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out four. His lone run came on a solo home run by former Phillie Nate Schierholtz in the fourth inning.
The Phillies acquired Martin last July in the trade that sent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers. He made his major league debut on Aug. 2, allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Braves (he struck out six and walked three).
Where Martin ends up will be decided by his ability to locate his curveball and slider consistently. He averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings in 21 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley this year, which is in line with what he has averaged since the Dodgers drafted him with the No. 15 overall pick in 2008. In his MLB debut against the Braves, he threw 40 of 57 fastballs for strikes but only 16 of 36 offspeed pitches.
The Phillies claimed 28-year-old outfielder Casper Wells off waivers from the White Sox, where he hit .167/.225/.182 with 22 strikeouts in 66 at-bats. Wells, a righthanded hitter, had an OPS of at least .838 against lefties in 2011 and 2012 but was just 5-for-37 with one extra-base hit against them this year. He is primarily a corner outfielder but does have 11 starts in centerfield over the last couple of seasons. The Phillies will need to part with a player on their 25-man roster to accommodate Wells, who is expected to join the team within the next couple of days . . . The game was delayed 22 minutes in the seventh inning due to a quick downpour . . . Michael Martinez started at shortstop in place of Jimmy Rollins, who leads the team with 108 starts this season. Rollins had appeared in all 113 of the Phillies games until yesterday . . . Seldom-used veteran infielder John McDonald replaced Utley at second base after the game got out of hand. He hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, his first in 57 plate appearances this season.