No one, including “The Man” himself wants to believe that 2013 will be the final year that the number 26 is located beneath such an iconic last name. Chase Utley represents all that has been right about Philadelphia Phillies‘ baseball for at least a decade. That’s why hardcore fans are currently on their knees, praying to the baseball gods that his chronic knee condition remains under full control this season.
As everyone knows, this is the last contractually guaranteed year that the second baseman will remain property of the Phillies. If the new season in any way resembles 2012, Utley could be traded by the July deadline. However, if a moderately revamped roster remains healthy, the 10-year veteran and his teammates might play fall ball one more time.
In either scenario, it’s possible that this calendar year may come to represent the last season that one of the Phillies’ all-time great players lists Citizens Bank Park as the employment address on his massive tax return. That cheeky money point is clearly connected to considerations affecting the extension of Utley’s deal.
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. may have telegraphed his approaching infield plan by the manner in which he began revamping the Phillies’ outfield last year. That story involved trading two expensive veterans (Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence) last summer and then letting another inexpensive veteran (Juan Pierre) take a free agent walk this winter.
Even if the Phillies rebound into the playoffs this season, is it far-fetched to think that Amaro allows Utley to leave after this season? If the second baseman does return, will Michael Young be re-signed? Are Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard 100% locks to be part of the 2014 roster as well?
In the best case scenario, Utley has a good year and signs an extension during the season that keeps him in red pinstripes for a few more years. As for the other three guys, I see at least one of them moving on after 2013.