Chase Utley wants to go down with Phillies’ sinking ship

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Phillies GM Ruben Amaro spoke to the media on Friday afternoon after the Jimmy Rollins trade was finally made official. Naturally, Amaro was asked about the possibility of trading second baseman Chase Utley as the team moves forward in its rebuilding process. According to Amaro, Utley still wants to finish out his contract in Philadelphia.

Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:

“I haven’t had enough of a discussion with Chase,” Amaro said. “The only discussions I’ve had with Chase and his agent about any of that is that Chase wants to be in Philadelphia. And so, we work through our offseason knowing Chase Utley will be in Philadelphia and be a Philadelphia Phillie. I don’t necessarily see that changing. Is it possible it changes? Maybe. But, again, regardless of that, we have to be listeners and think about ways to improve our club long term. Chase may or may not be a part of that. But right now Chase is a Philadelphia Phillie and he’s not going to go anywhere. He has no desire to go anywhere. Like I said before, he wants to honor his contract and that’s how we have to perceive it.”

Of course, Rollins sang a similar tune previously, also saying that he planned to finish out his contract with the Phillies. Utley’s tune may change as well, having lost his long-time double play partner. Utley released a statement following the Rollins trade, saying, “The team will miss his leadership on the field and his infectious smile, but most of all, I will miss our pre-game handshake.”

If the Phillies found a trade partner, they would still need to get approval from Utley, who has 10-and-5 rights.

Along with Utley, the Phillies could still explore trades involving Marlon Byrd and Cole Hamels. If they find teams desperate enough, they could even move Jonathan Papelbon or Ryan Howard.

An Astros executive asked scouts to use cameras, binoculars to steal signs in 2017

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The Athletic reports that an Astros executive asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts in August of 2017, suggesting in an email that they use cameras or binoculars to do so.

The email, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports, came from Kevin Goldstein, who is currently a special assistant for player personnel but who at the time was the director of pro scouting. In it he wrote:

“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”

The email came during the same month that the Red Sox were found to have illegally used an Apple Watch to steal signs from the Yankees. The Red Sox were fined as a result, and it led to a clarification from Major League Baseball that sign stealing via electronic or technological means was prohibited. Early in 2019 Major League Baseball further emphasized this rule and stated that teams would receive heavy penalties, including loss of draft picks and/or bonus pool money if they were found to be in violation.

It’s an interesting question whether Goldstein’s request to scouts would fall under the same category as the Apple Watch stuff or other technology-based sign-stealing schemes. On the one hand, the email certainly asked scouts to use cameras and binoculars to get a look at opposing signs. On the other hand, it does not appear that it was part of a sign-relaying scheme or that it was to be used in real time. Rather, it seems aimed at information gathering for later use. The Athletic suggests that using eyes or binoculars would be considered acceptable in 2017 but that cameras would not be. The Athletic spoke to scouts and other front office people who all think that asking scouts to use a camera would “be over the line” or would constitute “cheating.”

Of course, given how vague, until very recently Major League Baseball’s rules have been about this — it’s long been governed by the so-called “unwritten rules” and convention, only recently becoming a matter of official sanction — it’s not at all clear how the league might consider it. It’s certainly part and parcel of an overarching sign-stealing culture in baseball which we are learning has moved far, far past players simply looking on from second base to try to steal signs, which has always been considered a simple matter of gamesmanship. Now, it appears, it is organizationally-driven, with baseball operations, scouting and audio-visual people being involved. The view on all of this has changed given how sophisticated and wide-ranging an operation modern sign-stealing appears to be. Major League Baseball was particularly concerned, at the time the Red Sox were punished for the Apple Watch stuff, that it involved management and front office personnel.

Regardless of how that all fits together, Goldstein’s email generated considerable angst among Astros scouts, many of whom, The Athletic and ESPN report, commented in real time via email and the Astros scout’s Slack channel, that they considered it to be an unreasonable request that would risk their reputations as scouts. Some voiced concern to management. Today that email has new life, emerging as it does in the wake of last week’s revelations about the Astros’ sign-stealing schemes.

This is quickly becoming the biggest story of the offseason.