Phillies’ 2nd Baseman Chase Utley
2012 is a distant memory now for The Philadelphia Phillies. Thankfully. All attention can now be turned on 2013, and what the Phillies can do to bounce back and be competitive again. After all, 2013 may represent their last chance at winning with this core of players in tact.
Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon will all be here (presumably) in 2014, but several key faces may not be. That’s in addition to Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco who played for the Phillies last year and already won’t be returning.
Chase Utley enters the final year of his contract with the Phillies with way more questions than answers. The main question being will Utley be able to start the season healthy after failing to do so for the last two years? If he is healthy and able to control the pain in his knees, will he be anything close to the player he once was? In light of Utley’s health concerns during his career, it would seem unlikely and unwise for the Phillies to entertain signing him after this deal expires. Chase Utley has been one of the faces of this franchise’s rebirth, but his time in Philly may be small.
Roy Halladay has a vesting option with the Phillies for 2014. That option vests based on the number of innings pitched between 2012 and 2013. Roy Halladay, after missing two months of the season with a lat strain, will be hard pressed to get to the 400+ innings needed for that option to kick in. What does that mean in short? Roy Halladay will likely be a free agent after next season with the Phillies. Like Utley, Halladay’s health and effectiveness have become questions where none used to exist. After returning from that injury, Halladay never seemed to be the same pitcher that the Phillies expect. The hope for Doc is that the extended rest this winter will help him regain his form.
Another Phillie entering the final year of his contract is catcher Carlos Ruiz. Unlike, Halladay and Utley, Ruiz has been aging like a fine wine. At 33, Ruiz turned in the finest season of his career batting .3xx with 16 HRs and 64 RBI. It was a breakout performance for Chooch and earned his 1st All Star nod. The issue with Ruiz is his age. It is not typical to see a player in his 30′s putting up the kind of numbers he put up last year for very long. A lot of what happens with Chooch’s future with this team will be likely be predicated upon what he does offensively in 2013, AND what catching prospects Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle do in the minor leagues. Joseph was acquired for Hunter Pence at the trade deadline and is a highly regarded prospect. If the Phillies don’t fare we’ll next season, they may decide to blow the team up and go with a younger catcher. Time will tell on that one.
In the face of potentially losing some of their best talent, the Phillies also have huge holes to fill this year. The outfield for the Phillies is a train wreck of potential and the great unknown. Can Darin Ruf play? Can Domonic Brown play? Who will man centerfield? It’s amazing how a team has gone from having its outfield start in the All Star Game in 2009 to not having an outfield. It all happened so quickly.
And then there’s third base. Placido Polanco will not be back. There are rumors that A Rod is available from the Yankees, but how do you replace a 37 year old broken down body with a 38 year old broken down body and expect to gain traction? I get that A Rod could provide you the right handed power threat, but I’m just not convinced his antics would play well in Philly.
The question I keep coming back to is how will the Phillies approach this offseason? Will they try to patch as they did last year, or will they go all in one final time? It’s the big question this offseason, and it’s answer may reveal whether this team can take one more shot or whether they will fade into history.
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