Chase Utley was generating decent offensive numbers before a strained right oblique caused him to be placed on the Philadelphia Phillies‘ disabled list in the latter part of May. Because this is the final guaranteed year of his contract, hardcore fans are wondering if their beloved hero’s final swings in a hometown uniform will soon be seen.
Even if general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. decides to deal Utley this summer, it’s possible that number 26 could return to the team via free agency during the off-season. But, the future is far from certain whenever a player is pushed out of the nest.
This 11-season veteran earned iconic stature because of five dynamic years (2005-2009). While that statistical supernova won’t be enough to punch his ticket to Cooperstown, Utley has already secured his future place on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame.
Special players understandably receive extra attention. Decisions to trade someone of Utley’s ilk, or to not offer him a renewed contract, involve deep consideration. While wins are king in any stadium, tickets are sold and merchandise is moved during down periods because familiar ‘favorites’ can still be seen on the field.
It’s a tough call regarding Utley’s Philadelphia future, because it seems unrealistic to believe that this 34-year-old will be able to remain fully healthy during every subsequent season. While his chronic knee issue is believed to be under control, fading health is something everyone understands.
The mind says to deal this middle-aged baseball man and move in another infield direction. The heart says to keep Utley around through the end of his career.
But, fans aren’t expected to make business decisions and front office bosses shouldn’t be expected to always please the crowd.