Out since mid-June with an ankle injury, Chase Utley has completed a minor-league rehab assignment and the six-time All-Star second baseman will come off the disabled list to rejoin the Phillies’ active roster Friday.
Utley went 6-for-13 (.545) while playing two Double-A games and one Triple-A game, but remains a huge question mark after hitting just .179 in 65 games before the injury.
Utley was an above-average player last season and it’s possible a contending team could talk itself into taking a low-cost flier on him as an August trade pickup, but he’ll obviously need to put together a good stretch of games first to show that he’s not washed up at age 36.
Utley has an option for 2016 that will not vest because of his time missed, so he’s an impending free agent owed around $5 million for the final two months of the season and does have the right to veto any potential trade.
Even after bolstering their rotation with Scott Kazmir the Astros made a strong run at Cole Hamels, but a possible deal with Philadelphia came to a halt when Hamels used his no-trade rights to veto a potential move to Houston.
According to both Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com Hamels informed the Phillies at some point in the process that he would not accept a trade to the first-place Astros, causing them to focus on the eventual deal with the third-place Rangers.
Kazmir is merely a two-month rental for a team contending ahead of scheule, whereas the Astros no doubt liked the idea of being able to pair Hamels with Dallas Keuchel atop their rotation for several years of contending teams. It’s possible the Rangers’ offer would have topped the Astros’ offer anyway, but Houston’s involvement does signal that the Astros were willing to add significant salary now that they’re through the massive rebuild phase and firmly established as contenders.
Cole Hamels was scheduled to start Thursday night, but the Phillies announced that they’ve moved back his next turn in the rotation until Friday night. Atlanta would have been the opponent either way.
Friday afternoon is the trade deadline, so basically the Phillies didn’t want to risk Hamels getting hurt and/or struggling hours before the deadline to deal him. And if they don’t end up trading him, then he can take the mound Friday night after the dust settles.
Hamels threw a no-hitter against Cubs on Saturday following back-to-back rough starts in which he allowed 14 runs in 6.1 innings.
Where and for what has yet to be determined–the Nationals are said to be making a strong push, for instance–but Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Phillies will trade closer Jonathan Papelbon prior to Friday’s deadline.
Papelbon has made it very clear that he wants out of Philadelphia, but is apparently unwilling to serve as a setup man on another team. Not coincidentally, his $13 million option for next season vests based on games finished, so his 2016 status revolves around whether he remains in the closer role down the stretch.
Washington has emerged as a potential landing spot, but Nationals closer Drew Storen has saved 29 games with a 1.73 ERA. Papelbon has been every bit as good, albeit in far fewer save chances thanks to the Phillies’ underwhelming supporting cast, saving 17 games with a 1.59 ERA.
There has been some buzz about the Yankees potentially targeting another late-inning relief arm in advance of next Friday’s trade deadline, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that the club has also called the Phillies to check in on left-handed starter Cole Hamels.
The Phillies are said to like prospect outfielder Aaron Judge. However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is reluctant to give him up, as well as prospect first baseman Greg Bird and prospect right-hander Luis Severino. There might not be a match here, so perhaps this was just a matter of due diligence on the part of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
The Dodgers still look like the best match given their place in the standings, payroll, and need in their starting rotation, though the Rangers and Cubs have been mentioned as possibilities in recent days. Hamels is set to pitch against the Cubs this afternoon in what could very well be his final start as a member of the Phillies. As of now, the southpaw currently lines up to pitch next Thursday against the Braves, one day before the deadline.