By the end of his first full season in the major leagues, Chase Utley was the National League’s best second baseman, and he maintained that distinction through the prime of his career.
Utley racked up 44.7 wins above replacement between 2005 and 2010, making him not only the best second baseman in the game – nearly twice as good as any other second sacker – and the second best overall player in the major leagues, behind just the great three-time MVP Albert Pujols.
Utley has missed a significant portion of each of the last two seasons due to patellar tendinitis – first in one knee in 2011 and then in both knees in 2012. His seven-year contract with the team expires after the 2013 season, meaning Utley may have just one more year with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Factor in that the Phillies have an up-and-coming second baseman in Freddy Galvis, and there may not be room for Utley in 2014 and beyond.
Unless he switches positions – and Utley took ground balls at third base today, prompting the question of whether Utley could switch to the hot corner to prolong his time with the Phillies. Utley even volunteered to play the outfield for the Phillies, telling manager Charlie Manuel he would play there if needed.
Current third baseman Placido Polanco is set to become a free agent after 2012 unless the Phillies pick up his $5.5 mutual option for 2013, which is highly unlikely considering he’s extremely injury-prone at this point in his career and he’s nothing but a .255 to .260 singles hitter with little speed.
If Utley can play third base, that would be terrific for the Phillies. He may not have the arm strength but he certainly has the athleticism. Personally, I think it might be best if Jimmy Rollins could move to third base because he’s got a cannon of an arm and Freddy Galvis could play his natural position of shortstop and Utley could stay at second base. But either way, playing third base and the outfield may be a great fit for Utley if he’s willing to do it and he’s a good fit defensively.