CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the Astros are the latest team to have shown interest in Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. They’re the sixth team with reported interest in the veteran, joining the Cubs, Angels, Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers. With All-Star Jose Altuve at second base, Utley would likely split time at first base and DH if he were to become an Astro.
Entering Friday night’s action, Utley was hitting .412 (7-for-17) with three doubles since returning from the disabled list on August 7. As of this writing, he is 3-for-4 with a double and two singles against the Brewers. He had been out since June 23 due to a right ankle injury. Upon hitting the disabled list, Utley carried a poor .179/.257/.275 batting line. During his DL stint, he said he found a flaw in his swing caused by the ankle injury, which he corrected.
Utley, 36, is owed the remainder of his $10 million salary for the 2015 season. He has an option for the 2016 season that is all but assured not to vest, so the odds are on him becoming a free agent after the season. Utley is reportedly seeking an assurance of playing time to waive his no-trade clause per his 10-and-5 rights.
Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.
Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.
Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”
Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.
Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.