The trade deadline has come and gone, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the wheeling and dealing is over. The Cubs have been rumored to be interested in Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies to add a boost to their sputtering offense. If the Phillies place Utley on waivers, a deal could be made, let’s take a look at what be necessary to make a deal.
For the whole month of August players can be placed on revocable waivers. The waiver period lasts just under two days and if a player is claimed by another team, the player’s current team can pull the player back, work out a trade with the claiming team or forfeit the player and his salary for nothing. If a player is claimed, the club can only work out a trade with that team and has just two days to do so. An injured player on the disabled list cannot be traded and any player traded after August 31 is not eligible for the post-season.
Of course, a player put on waivers does not necessarily mean their team is interested in trading him, it’s mostly to determine interest and overall value of that player to other teams. Starlin Castro will likely be placed on waivers by the Cubs for that specific reason.
Chase Utley would be an interesting proposition and would add a valuable veteran left-handed bat to a struggling lineup. The six-time All Star’s career batting numbers include a .281/.366/.480 slash line with 341 doubles, 49 triples, 232 home runs and 911 RBI. He is currently ranked 10th all-time among second baseman in home run, 13th overall in OPS, 16th in WAR and is a border-line Hall of Famer. He has not performed up to those standards this year however as he has batted just .179/.257/.275 with seven doubles, four home runs, 25 RBI and three stolen bases in 218 at bats. Utley has attributed his struggles to an ankle injury that put him on the disabled list June 24. Utley started a rehab assignment and could be activated as soon as Thursday. Hopefully, his admission is correct as his defense has been below average as well, a big change from his usual strong play.
Chase Utley will be a free agent after the season and any acquiring team will be on the hook for the remaining portion of his $15 million salary. He makes sense as a salary dump for the Phillies due to Cesar Hernandez playing well at second base, but after trading Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins, it might be too much a PR nightmare to trade a player who has played all 13 seasons of his career in Philadelphia. If the team does decide to make a deal, that nostalgia might require the Cubs to give up a little more than they would like for his services.
Trading a franchise’s icon is much different than trading for the standard player, so to best determine his value, instead of comparing Chase Utley to his peers at second base in trades, we will take a look at other long term veterans in similar situations.
The most comparable to Utley is perhaps a trade the Phillies completed in the off-season where they sent Utley’s long time double play partner Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Eflin and LHP Tom Windle. The Dodgers assumed $10 million of the remaining $11 million owed to Rollins in the deal. Rollins spent 15 years with the Phillies where he was a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, 2007 MVP and team leader in hits and doubles. Eflin and Windle were both considered top 15 prospects with Windle having higher upside. Windle has three pitches, a low-90s fastball, nasty slider and an improving change-up. The slider is effective against both handed batters and scouts think if he doesn’t pan out as a starter, he has potential to make it as high-leverage reliever. Eflin is considered at best a No. 4 starter with a sinking fastball in the low-90s, but can dial it up to mid-90s when needed.
The next two trades to consider include two players familiar to Cubs fans as longtime franchise players, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. Obviously, both players are not the same level as Utley, but they spent multiple years with the team and were among the top players on the squad. Soriano spent six and a half years with the Cubs after signing an eight-year, $136 million contract in November 2006. As a Cub, Soriano batted .264/.317/.495 with 181 home runs, 526 RBI and 70 stolen bases. He never truly lived up to the deal thanks to injuries, inconsistencies with the bat and some unwillingness to hit in the middle of the order at the beginning of the contract. At the end of his Cubs career, Soriano was a solid veteran for young players like Starlin Castro and gave the team, it’s only real power bat at the start of the rebuild. He became unnecessary with young prospects needing playing time and he was dealt to the New York Yankees along with roughly $17.7 million of the $24.5 million remaining on his contract for RHP Corey Black. Black was a top 25 prospect with a fastball that touched 100 mph, but mostly sat in the mid-90s. He also has an average change-up, work in progress slider and fringe lever curveball. Mostly a starter for the Yankees, Black was seen as a potential power reliever by the front office.
Like Soriano, Ramirez has played for a few teams in his career, but probably put up his best numbers in Chicago. In 18 seasons, he owns a career .283/.341/.493 average with 380 home runs and 1386 RBI and has been one of the better third baseman over the past 20 years. At the deadline this year, he was sent back to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he started his career from the Milwaukee Brewers for RHP Yhonathan Barrios. The Pirates will also pay $3 million of the remaining $5.74 million on his contract, which Ramirez says will be his last as he intends to retire. Injuries have taken their toll on Ramirez and at the time of the deal he was batting just .247 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. Despite his advanced age and health issues, the Pirates took a gamble due to some injuries to their infield. Barrios was a top 30 prospect and a converted infielder. His fastball has touched 100 mph, but sits mostly in the high-90s. He’s still learning how to pitch and currently lacks any decent secondary pitches.
In all three deals, the acquiring teams put their faith in proven veterans who had long track records of success. At the time of acquisition, Rollins was the best player of the three profiled and therefore netted the best return. He has since fallen off a cliff offensively, but was still a solid player when acquired. Soriano and Ramirez netted just top 25-30 prospects and cash to offset their contracts and are probably the best gauge of Utley’s market. Both players also weren’t performing at their best and their trades opened the door for younger players to get some at-bats. Some prospects in that range that may be included in a swap for Utley include Jacob Hannemann, Daury Torrez, Jeremy Null, Rob Zastryzny and Christian Villanueva.
With reports suggesting that Joe Maddon is looking to shuffle some players around in order to improve the lineup to give the team more offense, a bat like Utley could make some sense. Of course, with Utley’s status as a long time franchise player, it all depends on how important he is to the Phillies and what they might want in return if they decide to place him on waivers. If the return is low and Utley proves to be healthy enough to give the Cubs at least most of the player he has been in the past, a veteran bat like his might be a solid gamble in the thick of a playoff race.
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