The Philadelphia Phillies have finally made a move this year that makes absolute sense. As was reported by several sources, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Phillies and All-Star second baseman Chase Utley have agreed on a contract extension that really does benefit both parties.
While some of the particulars of the deal are not yet available, Heyman is reporting that the contract is worth $27 million over the next two years, with a handful of vesting options for a third year.
For Utley, who at the end of the 2013 season will have finished up his rookie deal of seven years, $85 million, this new contract actually represents a raise. He will be making $13.5 million over the next two years, which is an upgrade over the $12-plus million he had made each season for his entire career. This is what makes Utley’s deal a reward contract.
Players like Utley, who has demonstrated value and has been a big part of this team’s recent success, are often given reward contracts. The Phillies did this with Ryan Howard‘s extension and again when they re-signed Jimmy Rollins in the offseason. And while these deals are haunting the Phillies right now, Utley’s reward contract just makes sense.
A two-year deal for Utley is the best the Phillies could have hoped for, and Utley’s willingness to agree to it shows how much he really does want to stay with this team. It also shows that he might be wary of the free agent market considering his recent knee problems.
Regardless of why, Utley absolutely deserves every penny of the contract. He was a big reason why the Phillies were able to win the World Series in 2008, and he is a huge — that cannot be understated — fan favorite. He lays it all on the line, plays with heart and grit, and even as the team struggles, he can never be accused of not giving his all. He has been called the best student of the game, and his teammates have, on no shortage of occasions, expressed admiration for the work ethic and the passion he has for the game.
Because of that, Utley is the perfect veteran to guide this young team going forward. The Phillies are rebuilding, and as has been evidenced this season, the team is finally starting to promote its youth. But even for a young team to be successful, it needs its fair share of veterans. Utley is certainly someone who fits the bill. The younger players could learn a lot from him about how to play the game right.
Despite his injury history, Utley has seemed to bounce back and is still capable of being productive, as he has shown this season with 16 doubles, five triples and 15 HRs. So, it is not as if the team just signed him as a reward for what he has done. It seems his contract is also based on what the organization feels he can still do for them.
At this point, as we wait for the vesting particulars, I see absolutely nothing to criticize in Utley’s extension. Finally, it seems Ruben Amaro has gotten one right.