Jul 022013

by John Viril—

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that the Kansas City Royals have internally discussed acquiring Philadelphia 2B Chase Utley. While possibly obtaining a 5-time N.L.All-Star and 4-time silver slugger winner should excite any Royals fan, I am not sure he is worth the cost.

Obviously, getting Chase Utley would be a boon for a Royals lineup that has struggled to score runs all season. The 34-year-old Utley is currently hitting .289/.348/.517 and ranks 3rd among second basemen in wRC+ (runs created vs. league average) at 138. He’s still an outstanding defender as shown by his current UZR/150 of 18.1. He’s even a good baserunner with 6 stolen bases. Chase Utley could help the Royals in all phases of the game.

The problem, of course, is what will he cost in prospects?

Philadelphia is considering dealing their long-time star because they are falling out of the National League East race while Utley is scheduled to become a free-agent in 2014. Since the Royals are unlikely to sign Utley to an extension, he’d be nothing more than a late-season rental. I cannot imagine that Kansas City would be the only interested party.*

[*Note: recent reports indicate the Dodgers are also interested in acquiring Utley, as well as San Francisco and the Yankees.]

The price is certain to be expensive if the Royals chase Utley. From a Phillies point of view, the discussion would start with one of the three Royals farmhands listed among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects coming into 2013: Bubba StarlingYordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. And, I presume, some lesser add-ons.

Of the three, I can see Moore only considering dealing either Starling and Zimmer. Both are struggling in the minors (despite Zimmer’s impressive recent start), and are not likely to advance to Kansas City before Dayton Moore’s tenure has reached an expiration date—if he doesn’t produce a winner. Those players will do the front office no good if they arrive after Moore has already been fired.

Even so, that’s pretty darn expensive for what would be a 2-month rental—presuming the deal would happen close to the July 31 trade deadline. While I would not be surprised if the Royals have indeed discussed Utley, 2B Johnny Giavotella‘s recall from AAA Omaha might give a clue to Dayton Moore’s thinking. The Royals will only pursue an Utley deal if 1) Giavotella fails to perform at 2B 2) the Royals offense continues to struggle 3) the Royals remain in the hunt for a playoff spot and 4) the price is not prohibitive.

At this point, it’s pretty clear the Royals will see what they have in Giavotella and only pursue Utley if the above conditions are met.

Even so, I cannot help but dream a little. In KC, left-handed-hitting Utley would be a perfect fit in the no. 5 spot behind Billy Butler—ending once and for all the problem of teams pitching around the Royals DH. The middle of the lineup would now look pretty good, with a nice L-R-L core of Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Chase Utley.

At this point, we will have to wait and see.

[*Note: this story would have appeared late on June 30 until my site went down]

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