Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chase Utley Options

It was recently reported that Chase Utley was battling a knee problem. Utley and team denied it, but it seemed to make sense. After all, Utley's production had declined over the past several months.

OPS by month

April - .981
May - .845
June - .727

Now, there is no debate. Utley is hurt. He left last night's game against the Reds after injuring his thumb sliding into second base (Incidentally, Utley was called out, though replays showed he was safe). It is unclear how badly the all-star second baseman is hurt, but he'll have an MRI today.

In the event that he is out a while, the Phillies need to consider their options. In 2007, when Utley broke his hand after a beaning (unintentional) by Nationals' lefty John Lannan, Pat Gillick went out and quickly traded for Takahito Iguchi, who served as a solid replacement for over a month (104 OPS+ w/6 stolen bases in 45 games).

The Phils' don't necessarily need to make a trade, but the prospect of Juan Castro or Wilson Valdez playing second base for an extended period of time is concerning --- given their .492 and .624 OPS marks, respectively. Neither has played particularly great defense this season either.


1. Move Placido Polanco to 2B, where he's played the majority of his career and won several Gold Gloves. Call up Greg Dobbs from the minor leagues to play 3B. Dobbs has struggled this season (1 home run and a .152 average), but perhaps playing everyday will help him develop a rhythm. After all, he is less than two years removed from being considered the best pinch-hitter in baseball and a legitimate power threat.

2. Trade for Ty Wigginton. The Orioles are clearly shopping him, though it may require a half-decent prospect to get him. This option is a bit concerning to me, as Wigginton clearly over-performed early in the year and is now coming back to Earth. It's unclear what he'll produce going forward.

OPS by month

April - 1.026
May - .877
June - .580

3. Suck it up and play Juan Castro or Wilson Valdez at 2B. Yes, it's a huge downgrade, but the rest of the offense has found its groove and the team can survive Utley's absence for a month or so. Plus, it doesn't make sense to further deplete the farm system for a player like Wigginton. If the Phillies are to win a championship, they'll need to bolster their pitching first and foremost.

4. Trade for Aki Iwamura with the Pirates. The Bucs recently optioned the 2B to Triple-A after he posted a very troubling .558 OPS in 54 games. I imagine acquiring Iwamura would require very little in return. I'm also pessimistic that it would bring much. Remember, Iwamura was unable to maintain a spot on the Pirates roster.

At this point, knowing what we know (very little), I'm leaning towards #3. I don't think a trade makes sense, plus neither Wigginton nor Iwamura are sure things. With Howard and Ibanez producing and J-Roll back in the fold, I think we need to trust the rest of the offense to carry the load while Utley is out. Any and all resources we have should go towards pitching.

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