August 8, 2013
By Nick Tricome
Chase Utley was already a great second baseman for the Phillies and the rest of the Major Leagues as well, but he solidified his place in Phillies' history in 2008.
He jump started the World Series with a two-run homer in the first inning of game one. Then he made an iconic play, when game five finally resumed, where he faked a throw to first and got the ball home instead to catch Jason Bartlett at the plate.
Then when it was all said and done and the Phillies were on top of the baseball world, Utley stood in front of over 45,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park and said directly into the microphone, "World Fucking Champions!"
Heading into this season, in the final year of his contract, there was a good bit of uncertainty on how much longer Utley would be wearing red pinstripes. But all of that uncertainty is gone now.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. referred to Utley as a "Phillie for life" leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Now it's clear that he meant it literally.
Utley will stay in Philadelphia thanks to a two-year contract extension worth $27 million at the minimum. The deal includes three vesting options that can extend the deal to a maximum of five years and $75 million.
Each of the three vesting options require Utley to reach 500 plate appearances, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. So, Utley will have to get to 500 in 2015 to guarantee himself $15 million in 2016 and he'll have to do the same in '16 to guarantee that same amount in 2017.
Should Utley not reach 500 plate appearances in 2015 and then '16 and '17 thereafter, those vesting options will become conditional club options in the $5-$11 million range depending on how long he can stay healthy, according to Rosenthal.
If Utley can max out the contract extension, the deal will last him until he is 39-years old. He is 34 now and will turn 35 in December.
"I think it's pretty clear that I'm extremely excited to continue my career here in Philly," Utley said in a press conference following the Phillies' 12-1 victory over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon. "I've said it several times, but the fanbase here in Philadelphia is the best fanbase in all of baseball and to have an opportunity to play in front of them nightly is special. I'm just looking forward to continuing to do that."
Since his Phillies debut back in 2003, Utley has established himself as the face of the franchise, becoming a fan favorite for the hustle he gives on every play and his overall competitiveness.
Just ask ace pitcher Cole Hamels, who referred to Utley by that title when asked about the first reports of Utley's deal on Wednesday night.
“Chase is pretty much the face of the franchise,” Hamels told CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. “He does things right. He’s done things right since day one."
"He’s the typical Philly athlete and Philly ballplayer," Hamels added. "He maxes out every day and you have to give him credit because it’s fun to watch. And being a teammate, I feel confident I’m playing with one of the best second basemen in the game, and I’m pretty happy that he’s still going to be here.”
Utley has become well known in the clubhouse and amongst fans for leaving it all on the field day in and day out. Injuries, however, have restricted Utley's playing time over the past few years.
Surgery on his right thumb kept him to 115 games played in 2010 and knee issues held him to 103 games played in 2011 and 83 games in 2012.
Utley has not reached 500 plate appearances since 2009 (571), which means the veteran second baseman has a challenge laid out for him in meeting the requirements for the vesting options.
Injuries haven't been much of a problem for Utley in 2013, however. His knees haven't been an issue and his only trip to the disabled list was back in May with a right oblique strain. With that said, he did miss nearly a month of the season.
"Over the past year and a half, ever since I came back last year, I've felt pretty good," Utley said. "I have a routine that I found that works for me and I will continue to do that."
"As you get older, you learn things about your body and I may need to make a few adjustments over time," Utley added. "But I'm willing to put that time in and that effort, because there is no better place to be than on that baseball field."
When Utley is in the lineup, he makes the Phillies a better team. He is batting .277 with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs this season. His on-base plus slugging percentage stands at .842 and he is averaging three wins above replacement for 2013.
It's not just for this season either. Utley, who has also represented the Phillies five times in the All-Star Game, is batting .287 with 214 home runs, 782 RBIs and a .874 OPS in 1276 games played across 11 seasons.
He was at his best in the team's run to the World Series in 2008, hitting .292 with 33 home runs, 104 RBIs and a .915 OPS. Utley set career highs in at-bats (607), home runs, RBIs and wins above replacement, which averaged out at 8.8 wins for that season.
Is keeping a guy like Utley on the Phillies a good thing? Yes. It's one of the best things the team could have possibly done this season, depending on who you ask and there is no doubt that a player like him still has some good baseball left in the tank.
There is a risk, though. Utley has proven this season that he can get past his knee issues, but at the same time, those bad knees aren't going to go away. It's a concern that the Phillies' front office will have to keep an eye on over the next two years and see how it plays out.
"There is some risk here, obviously," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in the press conference. "He has had some issues, but we think he is past those and hopefully he can continue to be the kind of player that we expect him to be."
At the end of the day, the Phillies are holding on to a player that gives it his all every game. He's a great source of leadership and can help keep the only team he has ever known competitive, while ushering in the new era of Phillies baseball by the time his career comes to a close.
"We've had some great times over the past seven or eight years," Utley said. "I truly believe we can get back to where we were. I think a good indication of that is today. You got to see some guys play some pretty good baseball with Darin Ruf and Cody Asche. They're a part of this organization's future."
"I'm excited to watch them continue to improve," Utley said. "I feel like they have a lot offer on the baseball field. Obviously, we need to get better. I think every team wants to get better and I think we have some pieces that can move us in that right direction."
Chase Utley is the perfect example of what a Philadelphia Phillie should be and now he has been given the opportunity to end his career in the city he started with.
“Chase epitomizes everything we expect our Phillies to be,” Amaro said in a statement. “As we've said before, we see Chase as a true Phillie for life. This contract moves us toward that end. We couldn't be more pleased.”
Utley is also responsible for one of the late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas' most famous calls. On August 9, 2006, after hitting a bases clearing double, Utley went from second to home on a routine grounder to the left of the pitcher's mound by Ryan Howard. Howard was out at first, but Utley kept running and beat a quick and unprepared throw to the plate.
After seeing what had just happened, Kalas made the iconic call, "Chase Utley, you are the man!"
"You Are the Man!" from Maria Bazurto on Vimeo.
(Image from DragonBallYee.com)