The essential parts of the Phillies' demolition will be complete soon. All that is left is for Chase Utley to make up his mind about where he wants to finish this season. It would be both mind-boggling and debilitating for the Phillies if he did not soon select one of the attractive options that reportedly are in front of him.
You want to go back to your childhood home in Southern California? That can be done.
You want to go to your current winter home in San Francisco? Also possible.
Dreaming of playing in pinstripes with the New York Yankees or being part of the first Chicago Cubs World Series winner since 1908? It's doable.
The Houston Astros? Just because Cole Hamels didn't want to go there does not make it a bad option.
Utley, thanks to his rights as a 10-year veteran, including at least the last five with the same team, can pick any of the above, so it would leave us all scratching our heads if the ultracompetitive second baseman opted to stay here in the land of the long lost season.
It matters little what the Phillies get in return for Utley. You can't expect a lot for a rental player whose best days are behind him. Think Billy McMillon for Darren Daulton or Gabriel Lino and Kyle Simon for Jim Thome.
What does matter is keeping second base open on a regular basis for Cesar Hernandez. It could be argued that the best thing that has happened for the Phillies this season is that Utley showed up at spring training with a sprained ankle that got progressively worse as he played on it. Eventually, of course, the injury sent Utley to the disabled list and Hernandez got his first extended chance to be a big-league regular, a distinction he had earned by putting together a solid minor-league resumé.
While Utley was on the disabled list, Hernandez batted .320 with nine extra-base hits, 24 runs scored and 10 RBIs over 36 games. His on-base percentage was .375 and his OPS was .770. He also stole 13 bases and was caught just once. It's too small of a sampling to make any declarations about what lies ahead for Hernandez, but it's a big enough one to say let's see more.
If Hernandez is capable of posting those numbers over the long haul, he would rank among the best second basemen in baseball. His numbers during Utley's absence would rank third among qualifying second basemen in batting average and on-base percentage and he'd be tied for sixth in OPS. Since Utley's return, Hernandez has continued to play, making one start at shortstop, two at third base and four at second base. Maikel Franco's absence with a bruised wrist allowed for two starts at third, but the Phillies' top rookie is expected to return Tuesday against Toronto.
Regardless, Hernandez needs to be the guy at second base for the remainder of this season and Utley needs to make up his mind and close the door on a book that will say he is the greatest second baseman in franchise history.
With that done, the key components of the demolition will be complete. Yes, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz will still be here, but that's OK given the current state of the Phillies.
Howard's pay - $25 million this season and next with a $10 million buyout after 2016 - does not match his production, but it's not as if he is blocking a player at triple-A Lehigh Valley from being here. You could argue that Darin Ruf has not been given enough of a chance at the position, but he has not helped himself by hitting .158 against righthanders. Howard, meanwhile, has given the Phillies average production, which was more than a lot of people expected at the start of the season.
Ruiz is the other faded remnant from the glory days, but he has started one fewer game than Cameron Rupp since the all-star break. With the addition of Jorge Alfaro in the Hamels trade and the emergence of Andrew Knapp as the planet's hottest hitter at double-A Reading, the Phillies suddenly have a very attractive minor-league catching situation, but both players are at least a year away from being ready for the big leagues.
Ruiz and Howard will be gone by then and the demolition will be complete. The exit for those two can wait another year. Utley's departure time, on the other hand, has arrived and he needs to immediately decide what city he is about to land in.