Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has the good news on Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who made it through eight innings Saturday evening in his final rehab game with the Single-A Clearwater Threshers:
Utley is now expected to travel to Philadelphia for the final stage of his rehab assignment. That is likely to include his playing in one more minor-league game, probably Tuesday at Triple A Lehigh Valley, before being activated for Wednesday’s game against Pittsburgh – provided there are no setbacks.
The 33-year-old has been on the disabled list since the end of spring training because of a degenerative issue behind his left kneecap.
Utley batted .259/.344/.425 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI in 103 regular-season games last year before going 7-for-16 (.438/.571/.688) in Philadelphia’s NLDS loss to the Cardinals. The Phillies — currently 8 1/2 games back in the National League East — will hope that he can provide a serious offensive spark.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.