Chase Utley continues to field ground balls at third base, fueling speculation that the Phillies could look to shift their franchise second baseman to the other side of the diamond next season.
Beerleaguer: Third base was shaping up to be one of the hottest stories of the offseason even without this game-changing twist. Utley took grounders at third this week in front of infield coach Sam Perlozzo, this after Utley approached Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. with the idea of moving back to a position he hasn’t played since 2002, to mixed results, in the minor leagues.
The Phillies need to consider the upside. Let’s consider free agency to be a last resort, since the pool is depressingly shallow. Would third base preserve Utley’s knees and prolong his career? Is the idea to open second base to Freddy Galvis’ glove, he of a .226/.254/.363 slash line and 50-game suspension for performance enhancers? Or would Galvis himself, or Jimmy Rollins, or Kevin Frandsen, represent a better alternative?
No matter one’s preference, the Phillies need an everyday third baseman, a situation so pressing that the club would be just to consider dealing Cliff Lee, which is something they set the stage to do this summer.
Meanwhile, they continue to form assumptions about controllable players like Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Nate Schierholtz and Laynce Nix with as many as three outfield slots open. Are they willing to ride out at least one position, or two, without adding additional help? Fortunately, they appear to have found a viable backup catcher in Erik Kratz, which would have been another hole to fill. In addition, arms are emerging in the bullpen; I wouldn’t look for a massive off-season overhaul in this department.