Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane is in no way known as a man who makes big deadline deals for highly-paid players.
The man’s biggest claim to fame is having a movie made about how he rode cheap dumpster-dive players to the ALCS, but it’s always possible that he could change his ways in order to give his team a better shot at their first World Series appearance since 1990. If the perennially cheap A’s are to make an impact deadline deal, the best player they could get would be Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.
On the surface, Utley looks like a risky move. He’s a 34-year-old, injury-prone second baseman who will make $15 million this year before becoming a free agent this offseason. For a team with the fifth-smallest payroll in MLB, that is a move that could be a disaster if he doesn’t help them out. But Utley provides a tremendous upgrade over the Athletics’ current second base situation, and he would be pretty easy for them to acquire.
Utley has quietly put up a very solid season for the Phillies this year. He has continued to exert his exceptional power for his position, as he has 11 homers and 30 RBIs. He’s hitting .281 for the season and has been on fire recently, hitting .350 in his last 10 games.
As the Phillies sit 7.5 games out of first place in a pretty weak National League East and are looking to rebuild, they would probably take just about anything they can get from a team that is willing to take on the remainder of Utley’s salary.
Utley would put a much-needed offensive weapon into the A’s lineup. They’ve struggled with their middle infield combination all year, and are currently fielding Jed Lowrie, a natural second baseman, at short with Eric Sogard at second. Lowrie is a good enough hitter to nullify his below-average defense at shortstop, but Sogard is more of a question mark.
The 27-year-old is receiving his first real shot after shuttling between the majors and Triple-A since 2010, and he’s been solid, hitting .261 with a .336 OBP over his first 199 at-bats. That being said, he can not really be trusted to hold up over the long run, and he’s been steadily tailing off for a while now. After hitting .302 in May, he leveled off to .254 in June and is 4-for-18 thus far in July.
If his free fall is not enough to convince you that Utley is the better option, Sogard is a far lesser power threat, as he only has one homer compared to Utley’s 11. Finally, Sogard has never played in a postseason game, while Utley has two World Series and five years of playoff experience under his belt.
For a team that has so many mid-level prospects but not a lot of elite ones as the A’s do, Utley is the perfect addition. While it may be a hassle to take on the remainder of his salary, the addition he can make to a World-Series-caliber team is most definitely worth it.
If the Phillies can get Oakland to take on the entirety of the money Utley is still owed, they probably would only ask for one of Oakland’s top prospects, most likely Grant Green or Michael Choice, who have played well at Triple-A this year but aren’t going to be elite players in the big leagues and will not be sorely missed.
Beane needs to swallow his penny-pinching pride and make the move to acquire a player of Utley’s caliber if he wants to give Oakland a fair chance to compete for the World Series.