Chase Utley has been a Philadelphia Phillie since 2003. He was 24 when he made his debut with the Phillies, and over the next 10 seasons, fans got to see one of the best second basemen to ever lace up his cleats.
Utley plays the game like everyone should: hard, fast and with grit.
If injuries were not an issue, Utley was on the fast track to a Hall of Fame career.
He was consistently among the top players in baseball from 2005-2009, but then the chronic knee issues began to surface. Since 2009, Utley has not played in over 115 games due to his chronic knee problems, and some are questioning just how long he has left in his baseball career.
At the end of the 2013 season, Utley's current contract will expire and he will become a free agent. He will also turn 35 in December.
Will the Phillies re-sign Utley to a short-term deal, or will they move in another direction and let Freddy Galvis or an outside candidate take over at second base?
I see this playing out in one of three scenarios.
One, Utley gets his knee issues under control and is able to play in 140 or more games in 2013. He posts above-average numbers and returns to the All-Star game. As a result, the Phillies decide to offer Utley a one- to two-year extension, which he accepts at a significant pay cut from the $15 million he made in 2013.
Two, Utley's season is again cut short by injuries. He plays in only 50-70 games and struggles to find any consistency. As a result, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis take over the majority of his playing time and show they can contribute.
This forces the Phillies to let Utley walk in free agency and look elsewhere for their 2014 second baseman.
Three, Utley finishes somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, as his career averages, age and injury history suggest he will. He plays 90-115 games, bats around .270 and hits anywhere from 10-15 home runs.
Unfortunately for Utley, this is not enough for Ruben Amaro Jr. to seriously consider bringing him back to Philadelphia. The Utley era in Philadelphia ends, and we see him sign with an American League team in the offseason.
In order for the Phillies to bring back Utley past the 2013 season, he must produce at least 80-90 percent of what he has in the past over a 140-plus-game season.
Bringing back Utley will cost the Phillies a lot more money than letting a younger player like Galvis take over. For this reason, along with his age and injury history, it will be very difficult for the Phillies to want to bring back Utley after his contract expires.
If the Phillies do not see improvement in Utley's health and production, we will see him play his last game as No. 26 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.
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