Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

chase utley philliesChicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says that, although the Cubs are monitoring the waiver wire, they are not close to any deals, which presumably includes Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, about whom Hoyer would not comment specifically (, CSN). Utley has already cleared waivers and is tradable to any team this month.

At last check, the Phillies had a variety of suitors for Utley, who has full no-trade rights. The big question is whether he will approve a trade to the team with which the Phillies are ultimately able to consummate a deal. To that end, Bob Nightengale hears that it could come down to the Cubs and the Angels:’s Todd Zolecki reports that the Giants are right there in a top three with the Cubs and Angels as Utley’s preferred destinations. The question there, though, is whether the Giants could convince Utley that he’ll get regular starts even after Joe Panik returns from his back injury, which could come soon.

The interesting wrinkle to all of this, whether specific to the Cubs or not, is that, if Utley does decide to wield his no-trade rights aggressively, it will bring down the price for the acquiring team. In other words, if Utley decides there are only one or two teams to which he’ll accept a trade, the Phillies aren’t going to be able to demand a whole lot in trade (though that could just lead to them deciding to hang onto him – sometimes the minimal trade return is outweighed by the value of just hanging onto a team icon).

The playing time thing is going to remain a question, though. Each of Nightengale’s and Zolecki’s reports suggest the Cubs could offer Ultey regular starts at second base, but I’m not so sure it’s that clear cut. Not only are the Cubs experimenting with Chris Coghlan – who is performing well – at second, but there’s also Starlin Castro (plus possibly Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella) to factor in. A Coghlan-Castro platoon, with Castro starting against lefties and playing the later innings in the rest of the games, is not a bad set-up. Adding Utley would give the Cubs more options, but could the Cubs really decide right now that Utley is going to be the everyday starter? Maybe with a little more time to evaluate. Again: a healthy, productive Utley, and none of this is even a question. The guy is obviously a starter. But is Utley, 36, definitely going to be healthy and productive going forward, given that he’s been neither for most of this season? That’s tough to say.

One other thing: Jim Salisbury, CSN Philly, reports that the Astros are aggressively pursuing Utley, too, where he would have to play somewhere other than second base, thanks to the entrenched presence of Jose Altuve.

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