On Sunday the Philadelphia Phillies completed getting swept by the Atlanta Braves in a 3-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park. The loss puts the team at 2-6 for this crucial homestand, eight games out of first place in the NL East and ten games below .500 on the season with a record of 36-46.
The 2014 MLB season is essentially over for the Phillies, meaning that a rebuild is coming. Now whether it will be a “tear it down to the studs” rebuild like the Philadelphia 76ers are currently doing or more of a “out with the old, in with the new” retooling remains to be seen. But either way, this will be the last time you are going to see many of these players in a Phillies uniform. The trade deadline is coming up fast, and hopefully GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will use it to unload some salary and help a handful of the players left from the 2008 World Series team to move on.
That list includes second baseman Chase Utley.
Utley had been on fire this year, batting at or near .300 for almost the entire first half of the season. His was the name that came up most often when people talked about the trade deadline and who the Phillies had that they could reasonably get something decent in return for. Which led to the argument that a player like Utley shouldn’t be dealt at all. But with the Phillies in the situation they now find themselves in, most feel that no option should be taken off the table to try to rebuild the franchise and return them to the winning side of the ledger.
This makes the timing of Utley’s current slump so infuriating. After setting such a torrid pace to start the season, Utley has batted only .219 with a single home run in his last 25 games. It has brought his average on the year down to a very respectable .293, but if the Phillies are going to move him by the deadline, they need the Utley of early in the season to return and fast.
Because as much as every Phillies fans loves Chase Utley and the spirit and toughness he brings to the team, trading him might be the only way to jump start the rebuilding process so it doesn’t last for years. Between him and Cliff Lee, there is a good chance that the organization could land a bumper crop of prospects that would fill out the ranks of the Phillies team of tomorrow.
Utley has said that he has no intention of waiving his full no-trade protection and that he plans on remaining with the Phillies, telling MLB.com: “You leave, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to win anyways. You pack up to leave for a different organization, a different city, and it feels temporary.” But the team may have to try to convince him otherwise, as painful as that may be to think about.
Do I want to see the Phillies trade away the man who represents more than anyone what the Phillies have stood for over the course of the last decade? Of course not. But I also don’t want to see the team go through a long and painful rebuild the likes of which the Sixers are going through.
In a few weeks, Utley will be on his way to the All-Star Game and deservedly so. On Sunday against the Braves he singled for his 1,500th career hit, and that one home run he hit was a walk-off to win a game for the Phillies in extra innings against the Miami Marlins.
There is no doubt that Utley is a very special player and means a tremendous amount to the Phillies and their fans. And right now the best thing he could do for all of us in the long term is allow himself to be traded.