We spoke about it on Monday, but the trade deadline is just around the corner, and it's high-time that Ruben Amaro starts taking inventory of his personnel. Specifically, those personnel that can get him a decent return in the form of young prospects from teams in need of additional bodies for the playoff push.
A name that's been tossed around as a potential trade candidate for most of the year is Chase Utley, who is in the final year of his contract with the Phillies. The 34-year-old veteran, who combines sterling defense with a solid offensive approach, would be a good fit for just about any team in need of a second baseman.
While a trade of Utley might be a bitter pill to swallow, he might just be the most valuable trade commodity in Ruben Amaro's possession not named Cliff Lee, and for fairly obvious reasons. He's a plus offensive player at a premium position, who plays great defense, is cost effective, and is quietly having a tremendous offensive season. With a .284/.348/.517 line entering play on Tuesday, Utley is amid his best season since he had a .905 OPS in 2009. His .866 OPS is the highest on the team, and his 11 home runs is sixth best in the Majors among second basemen, which is fairly impressive considering that he missed a month due to injury. In short: he can hit for average, can get on base, and can hit for power.
Speaking of injuries, it appears that Chase has not been hampered by the knee injuries that sapped his playing time and power during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He's shown no ill-effects during the 2013 season, and has only missed time due to a not uncommon oblique injury. In other words, his health concerns don't appear to be much of a concern.
In the field, he's among the best glove-men in the game, as most advanced defensive metrics rank him in the top five in the MLB among second basemen. While quantifying defense is not an exact science, that won't change the fact that Utley is about as sure as they come in the field.
The good news is that there are quite a few teams who could use the services of Utley, thanks to second not being the deepest position in the game.
Baltimore Orioles(44-36, 2nd in ALE): Winners of the 2012 American League Wild Card have given time to Alexi Casilla (.591 OPS) and Ryan Flaherty (.626 OPS) this season. While longtime second baseman Brian Roberts has returned recently, the O's could use an upgrade if they want to repeat their 2012 success.
Toronto Blue Jays (41-41, 5th in ALE): The Jays, who made a lot of noise in the off-season with big move after big move, are currently getting very little out of second baseman Emilio Benafacio, who has a .538 OPS and two homers in 71 games this season.
Kansas City Royals (38-41, 3rd in ALC): If the long-suffering Royals were willing to trade top prospect Wil Myers in the off-season to make a push for October, they shouldn't be too hard to convince to trade Chris Getz, who has one home run and a .562 OPS this season.
Oakland Athletics (48-35, 2nd in ALW): Billy Beane, known curator of defensive-minded players who can get on base and hit for power, would go ga-ga over Utley, who would be a vast improvement over Eric Sogard, who has a .680 OPS and no homers on the season.
Arizona Diamondbacks (42-40, 1st in NLW): The D'Backs are making it happen in the weak National League West, and no thanks to 2B Cliff Pennington, who has all of one homer.
Los Angeles Dodgers (38-43, 5th in NLW): The Dodgers, emboldened by a new ownership group and a roster full of young talent and aging superstars, could add Utley to their collection of MLB veterans. A Dodger fan growing up, Utley would be right at home in Chavez Ravine, where he would take over for Mark Ellis, who has a .651 OPS.
Will Ruben Amaro pull the trigger on an Utley trade? That's hard to say. He's said publicly that he'd want Utley to remain a Phillie for life, and while most fans would agree, he'd be doing the team a disservice if he didn't at least dip his toe in the trade waters to see what kind of return he could get for the veteran. First and foremost, Amaro has to focus on rebuilding this team, even if that means trading a big part of it away.