Let’s say Utley plays 130 games this season and hits around .280/.360/.470. How should the Phillies proceed? Letting him walk seems unfathomable, but this organization is in love with Freddy Galvis. Hopefully the temptation to play Galvis every day doesn’t cause the Phillies to undervalue Utley, as Galvis would be the eventual successor to Jimmy Rollins anyway.
What kind of contract do the Phillies offer Utley? He already took a hometown discount and it allowed the Phillies to put together the best run in franchise history. He can’t be expected to take a whole lot less to stay in Philly if he’s getting better offers, especially from AL teams.
That is the worry. Let’s say a mostly-healthy, 35-year-old Utley is worth $12 million per year on the open market. A reasonable offer from the Phillies would be two years, $24 million with a club or vesting option for the third year. But what would stop a team like the Athletics or Red Sox from offering Utley that same AAV over three years with the intention of DH-ing him a lot to save his knees and eventually moving him to first base? That future best fits Utley and can only be possible in the American League. If the AL team is offering more money, it becomes a very difficult decision for Utley and the Phillies.
Personally, I view Utley the way I view Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan is a Spur. Chase Utley is a Phillie. The personality of the Phillies has been created by Utley the way the personality of the Spurs was created by Duncan. When Duncan’s contract expired last season, he laughed off questions and essentially said “I’m not going anywhere ... we’ll figure something out.”
But anything can happen, especially if the Phillies miss the playoffs and a contender comes calling.
Put yourself in Ruben Amaro’s shoes for a minute. What is the most you’d be willing to offer Utley, in dollars and years, if he plays 130 games and hits .280/.360/.470?