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.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.