To judge what the Philadelphia Phillies plans are for second baseman Chase Utley, fans should look no farther than the Cesar Hernandez experiment.
Since July 4, Hernandez, a top second-base prospect by trade, has been taking a crash course in how to play center field. While that was before Ben Revere broke his foot and is expected to be out eight weeks, Hernandez’s move to center has been fast-tracked.
After starting in center field for the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Iron Pigs in the final three games of the first half of the season, Hernandez was supposed to be headed out to the Triple-A All-Star game, but the Phillies scrapped those plans and sent him to Double-A Reading for more center field experience.
If the Phillies were planning to trade Utley, they probably would not have bothered to move Hernandez, who will be out of options starting in the 2014 season. The Phillies would have to keep him on the major-league roster next season or risk losing him via waivers.
A player receives three option years and he can be sent to the minors an infinite amount of times during those years. Hernandez was added to the Phillies’ 40-man roster prior to the 2011 season. He was optioned at the conclusion of spring training in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Those are his three option years and the Phillies want to hang onto him and keep Utley a fixture at second, so center field becomes an attractive option to achieve that goal.
Now all indications are Utley will remain a Phillie for life, or at least through next season.