The Phillies aren’t going to have any playoff drama this year, but they may have some financial and political drama. Specifically, involving Chase Utley.
Utley is a shell of his former self thus far, hitting .182/.258/.280 in 244 plate appearances. That’s a problem enough, but it could be a $15 million problem if he is allowed to reach 500 plate appearances, because if he does his option at that price kicks in for 2016.
The Phillies’ president does not seem too concerned about that. Or, at the very least, he is not ordering Utley’s playing time be cut:
“That’s up to the manager. We don’t have anything to say about that . . . Ruben, to my knowledge and myself, we’ve never dictated to any of the managers their lineup. They’re free to make their lineup and play whomever they wish.”
It’s easy to mess this up in either direction, of course. If you bench him with the clear intent of keeping an option from vesting you’re going to catch hell from the union and the fans and, in all likelihood, other players in the clubhouse. However, if you don’t keep that option from vesting you could hamstring your efforts to build winning teams in the next couple of years, at least if there is a budget in place. And you have to assume that for every team that isn’t the Dodgers and the Yankees, there’s a budget in place.
Some tough choices are coming for the Phillies. I wouldn’t want to be the one making them.