Yesterday we learned that the Philadelphia Phillies had put second baseman Chase Utley on revocable trade waivers, which you now know is the process by which a player becomes tradable in August. Because of the timing of the waiver process, we could learn as soon as today whether Utley has been claimed by a team or whether he’s cleared waivers and is freely tradable to any team.
Given that timeline, and given the Chicago Cubs’ previously-reported interest in Utley, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see CSN Philly report that the Cubs – together with the Giants and Yankees – had scouts in attendance watching the veteran last night. In a companion video to the piece, Jim Salisbury notes that he believes Utley would be willing to accept a trade to any of those teams.
Your obligatory word of caution with “Team X had scouts seeing Player Y” reports: teams scout other teams all the time. The Cubs and Phillies have a series left this year, so you can bet the Cubs will be doing some advance scouting (especially with a bunch of new young players on the Phillies’ roster that they’ll have to face). You also can’t assume that, just because there are reports of interest by the Cubs in Utley that, if they had a scout in attendance, that scout was definitely there to see and report on Utley. Scouts do a whole lot of scouting, my friends.
That said, the obligatory counterpoint to the obligatory word of caution: often, when a reporter notes the presence of a team’s scouts, and suggests that the scouts are there to see a certain player, there’s a little more information informing that report behind the scenes. In other words, you take it with a grain of salt, but you acknowledge that, yeah, it does add a little bit of wood to the fire. Maybe a couple sticks.
However this shakes out, of course, there are implications for the Cubs. The Giants have waiver priority over the Cubs, and, if they take the crack first at Utley, that will impact the Cubs because the two teams are duking it out for a Wild Card spot.
If the Cubs get the opportunity and decide to pursue Utley, it would be interesting to see how they incorporated him into the team. If Utley is healthy and productive – he’s got at least one hit in each of his four games since returning from a long absence (ankle) – he slots right in as the starting second baseman, Addison Russell stays at shortstop, and Chris Coghlan rotates in at a variety of positions. Alternatively, Utley could be more of a part-timer and veteran presence, with an eye toward evaluating him as a possible team member in 2016 (he comes with a club option). How any of this would impact the Cubs’ plans for Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella (and Starlin Castro) is a fair question, though you should keep in mind that, come September 1, anyone on the 40-man roster can be up with the big team.
In the end, it mostly comes down to what you believe Utley has left in the tank (at 36 and coming off of that ankle injury) both for the stretch this year and 2016. Getting as many eyes on him as possible right now could help that evaluation process.
We’ll see how the waiver process shakes out, how Utley’s no-trade rights factor in, and how any movement might impact the playoff races in the NL.
UPDATE: He’s all clear to be traded now:
Sources: Utley cleared waivers. Can be traded to any club. Has right to veto any deal as player with 10 years service, five with same team.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 11, 2015
No one wanted to take on the $5ish million left on his deal for a pure flyer, which is understandable. Now the Phillies will see if there are takers – if they defray some salary – and if Utley will accept a deal.