The first-place San Francisco Giants are reportedly engaged in trade talks with multiple teams presumed to be sellers, but despite his gigantic contract, no player is more capable of becoming a concrete difference-maker in an orange and black uniform than Philadelphia Phillies veteran second baseman Chase Utley. The 2014 MLB season has been tumultuous for the Giants, yet they’ve somehow positioned themselves in a spot to reclaim the NL West crown. San Francisco has recorded one of the worst records in baseball since June 9, winning just 12 of 35 games, but currently reside atop their division.
General managers Brian Sabean and Ruben Amaro Jr. have done business before. In 2012, the Giants pulled the trigger on a deal that enabled them to acquire “Full Throttle” outfielder Hunter Pence, a deal of which helped propel San Francisco to their second World Series triumph in a span of three seasons. Philadelphia bared the brunt of that deal, failing to acquire substantial future talent in return for Pence.
The next four days will be immensely intriguing for the Giants as they prepare to take on the Phillies in a four-game set at Citizens Bank Park. The rumor mill has spurred sentiments from several current members of the Phillies of whom would supposedly rather remain in Philadelphia than change uniforms at the trade deadline, but the allure of winning a championship could prove to be too overwhelming for some, like Utley.
The 12-year veteran isn’t as title hungry as other potential trade targets might be, considering his role on the 2008 Phillies team that defeated Tampa Bay Rays in five games. Utley, a resident of Marin County north of San Francisco, could perhaps be swayed by the idea of joining a ball club that has serious World Series title hopes, though.
There’s no doubt the Giants would gleefully welcome Utley to AT&T Park. After all, the 35-year-old is having an All-Star caliber season. He owns a solid .289 batting average with eight home runs and 46 RBIs in 363 official at-bats. He’s durable, having played in 93 games this season. Utley has played in at least 131 games six times since becoming a full-time starter in 2005 and continues to demonstrate above-average range at second base, recording a .987 fielding percentage in just under 800 innings of defense this season.
It’s no secret the Giants are in desperate need of a high-quality second baseman. Utley would immediately fill that void if a trade were to be made.
The biggest roadblock preventing the Giants from realistically striking a deal with the Phillies for Utley is his contract. Utley would be owed the remainder of his $15 million contract for this season plus at least $10 million in 2015. The Giants already owe $127 million to just 13 players next season. Utley’s base salary for 2015 would automatically increase to $15 million if he spends less than 15 days on the disabled list with a knee injury throughout the campaign.
Utley is then owed three-consecutive seasons of vesting options, which equate to $15 million in guaranteed annual salary if he’s able to continuously rack up a minimum of 500 at-bats. The fine print will surely detract the Giants from sending top prospects to Philly in return for Utley, but the idea of improving a thin everyday lineup could be too much to pass up.
San Francisco needs a jolt.
The Giants, like many teams, have a chance to do something special down the stretch. The next 11 days will dictate whether they’re going to enter the dog days of summer with a title-worthy roster. At the moment, their ceiling is first place in the West. And they’d be lucky just to do that.