Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players Who Could Fill In for Chase Utley

Alec Snyder@@alec_snyder62Contributor IIIMarch 20, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players Who Could Fill In for Chase Utley

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    News of Chase Utley's tendinitis in his right knee has spread around the baseball world over the past few weeks. While Utley doesn't look like he'll need any serious treatment, he's already received a cortisone shot in the knee, but it didn't have any effect.

    He's rested and stayed off the knee as much as possible, but that was to no avail. He's even suggested that he could receive either a steroid injection or lubricant injection to speed up the process, but neither are certain as of yet.

    Regardless of whether it's been because of being hit by a pitch or simply overworking himself, Chase Utley has definitely felt the impact of an injury on playing time. Over the last few seasons, Utley has been riddled with injuries, from the broken hand to the torn thumb ligament last season and now the tendinitis.

    ESPN's SportsCenter recently showed a statistic about second basemen that displayed the amount of additional wins a team has when a second baseman plays every day over his replacement. Chase Utley led this statistic with roughly 21 wins. Boston's Dustin Pedroia came in second, but by a long shot, only providing roughly 14 wins.

    Even though this statistic is both astounding and heartbreaking to Phillies fans, it's not like they've seen replacements at second base in the past. If Utley won't be ready for Opening Day or even beyond, someone will have to replace him temporarily.

    Utley is doing all he can to avoid surgery to help his tendinitis, chondromalacia (cartilage deterioration), and bone inflammation.

    But if surgery becomes inevitable in the future, which is still extremely rare, who would fill his shoes?

    In no particular order, here are five players who are the most likely to fill in for Chase Utley if needed. 

Wilson Valdez

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    Valdez is currently known by Phillies fans as the guy who (mainly) filled in for Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco last season during their bouts of injury. However, for a period of time, Valdez did fill in for Utley while he recovered from thumb surgery and is the likely man to fill in for Utley this year.

    In his first season, in which he played over 100 games, Valdez posted a .258 batting average, 86 hits (including 16 doubles, three triples and four home runs), 37 runs, 333 at-bats and 35 RBI in 111 games. He also stole seven bases.

    All of those stats were career highs.

    Even though these stats for that amount of time are only so-so, take into account that Valdez played more games last season than the man he primarily replaced, Jimmy Rollins.

    Rollins played in just 88 games, and though he hit more home runs and RBI, they both hit the same amount of doubles and triples. However, Valdez had a higher batting average than Rollins did.

    Granted, no one is Chase Utley, but Valdez filling in for him would not be a bad idea at all.

Josh Barfield

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    Josh Barfield has not been an everyday starter since 2007, when he was with the Cleveland Indians. In his last full-time season, he played 130 games, and he had 102 hits in 420 at-bats. Among those hits were 19 doubles, three triples and three home runs. He hit for 50 RBI and posted a .243 batting average.

    That doesn't sound so good, does it?

    The good news is that since 2009, Barfield has mostly played in the minor leagues and has drastically improved. In fact, in this 2011 spring training alone, he has posted a .355 batting average in 14 games, seven runs, and 11 hits consisting of three doubles, one triple and three RBI.

    While the power numbers don't look that great, he actually has posted a .516 slugging percentage. Not too shabby!

    Barfield is only 28, which is also a plus. He could definitely be a viable replacement for Chase Utley.

Michael Martinez

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    Martinez was the Phillies' selection in last year's Rule 5 draft, being taken from the Nationals organization. In order to retain him past this season, the Phillies must keep him on their 25-man roster for the entire 2011 season.

    The opportunity to fill in for Chase Utley might just be one of the only ways the Phillies could keep Martinez through this year.

    That wouldn't necessarily be a bad decision either. Martinez has posted a .318 batting average in 21 games this spring, with three doubles and six RBI. He could definitely produce for the Phillies in the near future and would be a great utility infielder behind Wilson Valdez.

    Martinez could turn out to be one of the Phillies' top prospects and one of their most valuable utility players very, very soon. Being only 28 years old, Martinez still has a bright future ahead of him, and with a chance like this, Martinez could establish himself very quickly.

David Eckstein

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    Although Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has recently stated that the Phillies' payroll is "tapped out," that doesn't mean he can't sign one more player, even if it were to a minor league deal.

    When I say one more player, I'm talking about David Eckstein.

    Sure, Eckstein is nearing age 36, but being a free agent with little interest, it wouldn't take much for him to sign with a team, especially the Phillies, where he could get a lot of playing time until Utley returns.

    The thing about David Eckstein is that he's also got a World Series MVP award under his belt, which could mean that he could demand more money.

    He wouldn't be a bad decision in terms of playing ability, either. He's no power hitter, but he's got some consistency, batting a .267 average last season in 116 games with 23 doubles, 49 runs scored and 29 RBI.

    Is he the Phillies' best playing option?

    No, not really. But he could prove to be the Phillies' most economical choice. 

Luis Castillo

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    Luis Castillo was released by the Mets this past Friday after spending the last three-and-a-half seasons as their starting second baseman.

    He's not necessarily out of options, but since he's 35 years old, there sure aren't many left for him.

    The Phillies could be one of those few options available.

    Castillo only played in 86 games last year and posted a dismal .235 batting average due to injury, but over the span of his career, Castillo has posted a .290 average. And while he's no power hitter either—he only has a .351 career slugging percentage—Castillo is a good hitter.

    In fact, he's hit 194 doubles and 59 triples, resulting in 443 RBI over his career. The RBI stat isn't so great, but he isn't a bad option for the Phillies.

    And like David Eckstein, he could come at a low price. Castillo already has $6 million guaranteed this year since the Mets released him, so he might not ask for so much more money from another team, since he's set for this year.

    Castillo could prove to be a great option for the Phillies. 

Other Options

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    While the five guys I previously mentioned are some of the most probable options to take over Chase Utley's position until he recovers, there are still more names that could fill the role. Some of those guys are minor league players Pete Orr and Delwyn Young.

    But what about Michael Young?

    Yes, even though Amaro's basically tossed all Michael Young rumors in the trash can, there still could be a chance he could come to Philly.

    Just a couple of days ago, the Rangers revealed that they would be willing to eat half of Michael Young's $48 million contract over the next three seasons. That means that each season, whatever team receives Michael Young in a trade deal (if there is one) would only have to pay $8 million a season.

    The Rangers also said that they are exploring options for an experienced closer, since they are trying to inch Neftali Feliz into their rotation.

    What about Brad Lidge? Lidge has one guaranteed year left on his current deal, which pays him $11.5 million for the 2011 season. His 2012 option is for $12.5 million, but it is a club option, meaning that the Rangers could let him become a free agent after the season by giving him a $1.5 million buyout.

    If the Rangers also want a starting pitcher or even an outfielder, they could also take Joe Blanton or Raul Ibanez off the Phillies' hands. Blanton still has a year or two left on his current deal, while Ibanez is entering the last of a three-year contract signed before the 2009 season.

    Regardless, a Michael Young deal is still possible for the Phillies.