The Philadelphia Phillies have been somewhat of a pleasant surprise thus far. Despite sitting two games below .500, the Fightin' Phils are only three-and-a-half games out of first place in the National League East.
To some, suggesting the Phillies should be sellers at this point in the season may seem asinine. However, their current standing is more illusory than anything as they have struggled mightily against teams with winning records. Don't forget they have yet to face the Washington Nationals.
One of their largest chips is second baseman Chase Utley. In the final year of his deal, Utley is hitting .289 with a team-high 24 RBI. His seven home runs are tied with Domonic Brown for most on the club.
For many, the prospect of seeing Utley in another uniform is surreal. He was at the core of the 2008 World Series championship team. A few years prior, he was the reason why Placido Polanco was dealt to the Detroit Tigers. Needless to say, if anyone has been the face of this franchise, it's been Utley.
It wasn't too long ago when many women were walking around Citizens Bank Park wearing pink shirts stating they are Utley's "girlfriend." Everyone remembers when the late, great Harry Kalas declared, "Chase Utley, you are the man!"
Utley is to the Phillies what cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia.
On the other hand, nothing lasts forever.
2013 is the first season since 2010 where the 34-year-old appears to be at full health. Prior to this season, Utley's numbers were on a serious decline. Such facts makes one wonder as to whether this is a contract-year surge. Regardless, the increased production is the primary motivator to move Utley while the organization can attain as much in return as possible.
With that in mind, let's take a look at Utley's potential suitors.
Sure, the Orioles may be more inclined to pursue rotational depth that is more on par with that of the other top-flight teams in the American League. However, the production they have received from second base has been abysmal.
Ryan Flaherty is hitting a putrid .140 in 98 plate appearances. His two HR and six RBI don't make up for his 23.5 percent strikeout rate. While Flaherty usually faces right-handed pitching, his current Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 0.0 highlights the fact that he is doing nothing for the O's. Absolutely nothing.
The other option Baltimore has at second base is Alexi Casilla. The soon-to-be 29-year-old has never proven to be much of a hitter. His career year came in 2008 with the Minnesota Twins, but his production then was rather unflattering.
What would the Phillies receive in return? Stud prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are out of the question. With a top-heavy farm system, the optimal return would include righty Branden Kline and outfielder Glynn Davis.
If this organization is serious about making a run into late October, it would behoove them to consider Utley. Put simply, their second base situation is ugly.
They are platooning Elliot Johnson and Chris Getz. Johnson is striking out one in nearly every three at bats, while Getz is hitting an appalling .193. Between the two, they have two HR, 10 RBI and 21 runs scored in 46 games.
There isn't much to look forward to within the farm system either. The Royals are currently 19-17 and one-and-a-half games behind the first place Detroit Tigers. The overall lineup has underachieved. Utley would give the squad more prowess at the plate.
The Royals made headlines by dealing super prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay prior to the start of the season. Stud prospects Kyle Zimmer and Bubba Starling can't be seriously considered in an exchange for Utley. However, the Phillies would be pleased if they received lefty John Lamb or shortstop Orlando Calixte in return.
Even though they are one game below .500, the A's are in prime position to compete for the AL West or a wild-card berth. Unfortunately, Eric Sogard is not the answer at second base.
Next week Sogard will turn 27. Since 2010, he has had several brief stints in the majors. While he makes decent contact, his .233 batting average is far from stellar. He has very little power to speak of as well.
For the second consecutive year, Scott Sizemore has torn the ACL in his left knee. Oakland can't look inward since they have very little hope in terms of finding a replacement for Sogard in the minors. Therefore, Utley would be a solid fit for a franchise looking to make its first consecutive trip to the playoffs since 2000-03.
In a deal for Utley, the Phillies could expect to receive the likes of righty Nolan Sanburn, lefty Pedro Figueroa or outfielder Michael Taylor. Neither of these three prospects has tremendous upside but they would foot the bill in exchange for Utley.