COULD CHASE UTLEY be gone before the Phillies return from their 10-day, three-city road trip on Sunday night? Has he already played in his last game at Citizens Bank Park in red pinstripes?
The San Francisco Giants have made a trade offer to acquire Utley, according to reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and MLB.com. Both reported that Giants general manager Bobby Evans confirmed that an offer had been made to the Phillies.
Utley cleared waivers on Tuesday and can be traded to any team - with his approval - and be eligible for that team's postseason roster if a deal is consummated before Sept. 1. But with at least a handful of contending teams in need of help at second base, the likelihood is increasing that a trade could be completed well before that waiver trade deadline.
The Giants would seem to be an obvious fit - and perhaps Utley's top choice, too. With three titles in the last six years, they are an obvious World Series contender. Utley also lives with his family in the San Francisco area in the offseason.
Although Giants All-Star second baseman Joe Panik (back) could return from the disabled list by Sept. 1 - and Utley might waive his no-trade clause only if he thinks he'll play regularly - San Francisco has at least a little flexibility with its roster, too.
First baseman Brandon Belt has played in the outfield before, including 10 starts this season. The Giants, theoretically, could play Utley at first base and second base, working him, Belt, Panik and leftfielder Nori Aoki into a rotation, similar to the rotation the Phillies have used to play both Utley and Cesar Hernandez since the former returned from the disabled list last weekend.
The Giants aren't the lone suitor for Utley's services. The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs both scouted him recently. Both Los Angeles teams would be fits (Howie Kendrick, of the Dodgers, is on the DL with a hamstring injury). And even Toronto can't be ruled out, with rookie second baseman Devon Travis on the DL, too, with a shoulder injury.
But Utley, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, has a say in any trade. Just like former longtime teammate Jimmy Rollins, Utley has 10/5 rights (at least 10 years in the big leagues, at least five with his current team), which means he has a full no-trade clause. If Utley plans to play next year, he might want to take care of that now, too, and work a 2016 contract into any deal.
Jonathan Papelbon, who had a vesting clause in his own contract, did just that before he was traded to Washington two weeks ago. After Papelbon and his agent negotiated with Washington before the trade became official, the $13 million vesting option in his deal was voided and a new, $11 million guaranteed contract for 2016 was agreed upon.
Utley needed 500 plate appearances this season for his 2016 option to vest in his contract, but after spending nearly six weeks on the disabled list with an ankle injury, that $15 million vesting option is no longer reachable. The oft-injured Utley won't get that kind of dollar figure through free agency, either. But any kind of guaranteed one-year deal might make him more willing to waive his no-trade clause this month.
In the past, Utley repeatedly said he wanted to stay in a Phillies uniform. But this spring, after Rollins was traded and the front office committed to an organizational rebuild, Utley said he would listen, "out of respect for the organization," if approached about a trade.
Utley is listening now.
While the Phillies almost certainly would pay the balance of his salary to ensure a better return, as they did in the Papelbon and Ben Revere trades, there could be other hurdles to get to the finish line of an Utley trade.
Utley was hitting a major league-worst .179 when he was placed on the DL on June 23. But with renewed health, he's looked like his old self since returning to the Phillies' lineup last Friday in San Diego: 7-for-17 (.412) with three doubles in five games.