Several teams in the hunt for Utley
MILWAUKEE -- Trade talks for second baseman Chase Utley are hotter than ever.
Sources told MLB.com on Thursday night that several teams have made offers for Utley, although no deal is imminent.
The Giants are just one of those teams. San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans confirmed to MLB.com that his team has made an offer. The Angels, Cubs, Astros, Yankees and Dodgers are in the mix. The Angels have been interested in Utley for more than a month, and are worth watching.
One source made one thing clear on Thursday: Everything is in Utley's hands. He has 10-and-5 no-trade rights, so he can be traded only if he wants to be. If Utley prefers a particular team, he can steer the Phillies toward that team. If he does not like what he sees or hears, he can say no.
ESPN.com reported earlier Thursday that Utley wants a guarantee of playing time before he goes anywhere. He does not want to ride the bench, because he plans to play next season. That makes the Giants' situation interesting. Utley spends his offseasons in the San Francisco area, and the Giants certainly are World Series contenders. But although San Francisco second baseman Joe Panik is on the disabled list with inflammation in his lower back, he would expect to play once he is healthy. Two sources agreed that Utley wants to play regularly, which make the Giants far from a certainty, despite their aggressiveness.
It is a small sample size, but in five games since returning from the DL with a sprained right ankle, Utley is hitting .412 with three doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .196 with a .564 OPS in 70 games overall, which makes compensation an interesting point of discussion. Teams believe Utley can help them, but based on his performance in the first half, they seem unlikely to give up a top prospect for him.
But those who know his thinking say Utley still believes he can play at a high level, and the poor numbers before the All-Star break were the results of his ankle injury and a mechanical flaw in his swing.
Utley has a $15 million club option for 2016 that no longer will vest automatically based on plate appearances. His club option would then drop to $11 million, but the Phillies would be expected to take the $2 million buyout instead. That would make Utley a free agent, and the Phils are unlikely to re-sign him, because they plan to make Cesar Hernandez their second baseman in 2016.
Utley could be going over his options at this moment. If not, it seems only a matter of time before he does, and these things can move quickly.
Asked on Sunday in San Diego if he expects to be with the Phillies by the end of the season, Utley said, "Who knows?"
That question could be asked a bit differently at this point: Does Utley expect to be with the team by next week?