Baseball in Philadelphia this season has been filled with injuries, unfulfilled expectations, and overall mediocrity. The Phillies have never turned the corner, routinely nearing its edge but never making that final turn. Sometimes, we see a team who could make “that run”. On most nights though, we see a squad that is just a _____ (fill in the blank) short. The inability to win close games and play consistent baseball has left the Phillies only seeing a unrealistic glimmer of hope at the playoffs.
At their own admission, the Phillies front office will spend the rest of 2012 evaluating who can help them in 2013. Obviously, upgrades to the bullpen and outfield will be priorities, but the object of intrigue will no doubt be third base.
Kevin Fransden has been a nice surprise for the Phillies in the second half of this season, causing many to think he could be the answer. Though I really like what Frandsen brings—a veteran approach at the plate, a hard, hustle-first attitude, and a good baseball IQ—I don’t see him as “the answer”. With that being said , I love him in a utility role next season.
In addition to that, there is a weak free agent class along with a thin trade market. Unrealistic trade demands may leave the Phillies in quite a vulnerable position moving forward. There is one possible saving grace, however, for the Phillies at third base: Chase Utley. A career second basemen in the MLB, Utley once failed at the transition to third base in AAA, but a refined veteran now, the transition could be a possibility.
Chase Utley brought the idea of a possible move to Ruben Amaro Jr about 3 weeks ago, saying it was worth a try. Utley thought about the flexibility it could give the Phillies, plus the wear and tear it would save on his knees warranted at least exploring the idea. This is a tricky situation though as no one, not even Utley, knows if he could actually do it at this point.
I asked former MLB 3rd Basemen Morgan Ensberg if he though Utley could make the transition. He was skeptical, saying, “He will have to play shallow because of his arm strength . . . That makes the position even harder because of the reaction time and spin.” Ensberg, no doubt is not alone in this opinion. To make this move at this point in Utley’s career would be tough, but it is possible.
In baseball, lots of players get to a point where it’s just another job. The taste of winning dries up the focus and passion, and baseball becomes secondary noise necessary to get that paycheck. Then there are a rare few, a group who live for every grinding day, pitch, and at bat. Those players find their true identity and purpose between the lines. They love every minute of it, and always have somebody to outwork, prove wrong, and stick it to.
Chase Utley is one of those guys. I am not saying pencil in Chase Utley as your 2013 Phillies 3rd Basemen, but why bet against a player who has done nothing but prove people wrong from the first pitch he saw in his first big league at-bat. Sure, the transition would be tough or near impossible at that age for most, but remember Chase Utley is not like most. If there is a guy who will find a way, it’s him.