Over the last eight to nine years or so, Chase Utley has become a vital member of this Philadelphia Phillies team. From his grand slam as his first major-league hit, to his outstanding offensive support to lead the Phillies back to postseason play in 2007, to the World Series in 2008 and in the World Series in 2009, Utley has truly been "The Man" that longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas dubbed him.
Unfortunately, as it's 2012 now, things have changed. Utley is no longer the young, offensive powerhouse he used to be. He's still more than adequate defensively, but there's little pop in his bat as a result of his weakening legs, specifically his knees. With power coming from the legs, Utley's just got nothing left there.
As much as we'd like to think Utley will come back to his All-Star form, the hard truth is this: Chase Utley has almost nothing left in the tank. It's sad, but it's also a fact we have to face. And it's hard for me to face, too, since Utley's always been my personal favorite on the roster.
But could it be more than this? Could Utley be at the point where he has to stop playing altogether? It may very well come to this sooner rather than later, and the Phillies need to have a plan in place in case it does. Utley is under contract through next season, but if push comes to shove and Utley isn't capable of playing next season but doesn't retire, a very sad ending may come with the conclusion of Utley's Phillies tenure, whether a release or—most likely—retirement.
With this in mind, the Phillies must be looking for some options both in and outside of their organization. If the replacement for his offense comes at a different position, then the Phillies must pursue it. After all, the top two possible second basemen on next year's free-agent market, Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips, have both recently signed contract extensions that will keep them on their respective teams for at least five more years. With Ryan Howard an uncertainty now as well, the need is even more pressing to find an offensive force to fill the void that Utley (and possibly Ryan Howard) has left.
Today, we'll explore any and all options. Whether from the draft to a trade, a free-agent signing to a promotion to the major-league level, all avenues must be explored. Ready?