We heard late last month that Chase Utley was starting to take some grounders at third base to see if he could be an option at the position at some point down the road. The experiment could begin pretty soon.
After Utley worked out at third base again this afternoon at Citi Field, manager Charlie Manuel told John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility that the 33-year-old could play there in a game before the end of the season.
“We could,” Manuel said. “It depends on where we are. The next week will tell us where we are, probably … We’re going to run out of season pretty soon.”
In other words, the Phillies aren’t going to mess around if they feel like they are still in the race. However, after dropping three out of four games to the lowly Astros, the playoffs are suddenly looking like a remote possibility. It might not be long before they start looking ahead to 2013.
While there have been some concerns about Utley’s arm strength, Manuel believes a move to third base could help ease the burden on his knees. If he makes the switch next season, Freddy Galvis would likely take over as the starting second baseman. Galvis showed earlier this year that he was up to the task defensively, but he batted just .226/.254/.363 with a .617 OPS and 29/7 K/BB ratio in 200 plate appearances.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.