Some leftover notes from a busy Thursday, in which Chase Utley signed a two-year, $27 million extension...
>>> The Phillies envision Utley as their second baseman for at least the next two seasons, although plans can and will change. That is why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the possibility of Utley sometime playing first base if needed.
"I talked to Chase about moving around in case we do have breakdowns," Amaro said, "and in case Ryan Howard does have another knee problem … and he was very open to it."
This isn't to say the Phillies are releasing Howard to shift Utley to first. Utley's value stems from the position he plays. His .855 OPS would rank third among major-league second baseman if he accrued enough plate appearances to qualify.
Interestingly enough, that figure would rank sixth among first basemen. Granted, this is assuming Utley maintains his current clip, which is the best ball he has played since 2009. His production, going forward, is likely best served at second base.
If anything, Utley's experience at first base (26 games and 22 starts) does allow for some flexibility if needed. Howard is signed through 2016; Utley is guaranteed through 2015.
>>> Utley's last 168 games since he returned June 27, 2012: .268/.354/.472 with 26 home runs, 33 doubles, 7 triples, 99 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in 710 plate appearances.
That .825 OPS ranks 50th among all qualified hitters during that span.
>>> Cole Hamels labeled Utley "the face of the franchise." Roy Halladay once called him "the Derek Jeter of the National League." Amaro bestowed strong words upon Utley's presence in the Phillies clubhouse.
"It's very difficult to put a price tag on what Chase brings to the table on a every day," Amaro said. "I talked to opposing managers, opposing GMs, etc., etc., and they're all kind of saying the same thing, 'It's tough to put a price tag on Chase because of what he brings to the table on a daily basis.'
"I view Chase — and we are going through a bit of a transition on our club obviously with the people that are on the field right now — as one of the players. And Ryan, Jimmy, Cole. I see these guys as the bridge to kind of the next core group of players that are coming through here. Having Chase, Jimmy, Ryan in some ways be the leaders of our club moving us forward, these are the type of people that I want our young players to emulate.
This is the type of player — particularly in Chase's case — I want Cody Asche to watch Chase and learn from him. I want Darin Ruf to learn from Ryan Howard and Chase and Jimmy. I want these guys to be around because it's important. They know how to win, they know what it takes to win, they know how to act professionally, they know how to put a ring on their finger."
And if Ryne Sandberg is indeed the next manager, who could more help him check the pulse of the clubhouse than Utley? He plays with a similar demeanor to that of Sandberg's and the two men have developed a mutual respect for one another.
>>> The Utley contract locks the current Phillies middle infield into place for at least the next two seasons. What does that mean for Freddy Galvis?
Not much. Galvis' highest value has always been at shortstop. The Phillies have long bucked the trend of using shortstop for defense over offense because Jimmy Rollins provided both for years. It is easier to sacrifice offense for defense there because it is the most demanding infield position.
This buys more time for Galvis, 23, to improve his bat.
"Again, Freddy has great versatility," Amaro said. "Whether he ends up being a utility player or an everyday major-league shortstop remains to be seen, but that's all part of being a good club and having as much depth as possible. Who knows when these guys go down? They’re getting older and we've seen them go down before, so to have that kind of depth is important.
"I think Freddy is going to be an everyday player at some point, but he’s still working on some things offensively. He’s done a pretty good job down there. He's not lighting it up offensively, but he’s done a pretty good job and he's outstanding defensively. It's just a matter of him growing up. He’s a young kid. He's 23 years old. We’ve got time on him and whether he plays a bigger role for us or a smaller role remains to be seen."
Galvis is hitting .248/.288/.386 at triple-A Lehigh Valley since his demotion in June.
>>> Third base is a position Utley volunteered to try late last season, but the Phillies nixed that idea before it ever intensified. Now, the franchise possesses two promising young players at third base. Cody Asche rapped three hits, including his first major-league homer, in Thursday's rout. Maikel Franco is 20 and has 24 homers in the minors this season.
What happens if both are viable options in the majors?
"We've thought about a lot of things and I hope we have that problem," Amaro said. "I hope we have a problem where guys are competing for jobs. You can't have enough talent and who knows who goes down. These things always have a way of working themselves out, but I hope Maikel Franco becomes the guy we think he can become because he’s the prototypical run producer from the corner.
"Cody is probably athletic enough to move around to different positions, but until that happens, Cody is our third baseman right now and he's going to continue to get a chance to play third base and we’ll see what happens after that."
Expect Franco in big-league camp for spring training. He is unlikely to win a job then, but stranger things have happened.
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