Chase Utley was set to become a free agent at season's end before agreeing to a multi-year contract extension with the Phillies. (USA Today Images)
Several weeks ago, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sat down with Chase Utley to talk about the second baseman’s future.
Amaro told Utley that he’d be willing to investigate trade opportunities if Utley wanted to move on.
He also told Utley that he was ready to discuss a contract extension if Utley wanted to forgo his impending free agency and remain with the Phillies.
That's the type of respect Utley has earned over a decade in red pinstripes: The Phillies let him call his shot.
Utley told Amaro he wanted to remain with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2000 draft and brought him to the majors in 2003.
And that’s how this all got started.
After several weeks of negotiations, the two sides reached agreement on a contract extension Wednesday, two sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The deal could be announced as soon as Thursday. Coincidentally, fans attending Thursday afternoon’s game against the Cubs will receive a poster with Utley’s picture and the words “Pride of the Phillies” on it.
Utley, who turns 35 in December, would not comment specifically on contract matters after Wednesday night’s game.
“There’s not a whole lot to say at this point,” he said. “When there is, or if there is, you guys will be the first to know.
“I love Philadelphia. I’ve always envisioned playing here. I’ve never envisioned playing anywhere else and I hope that remains a possibility.”
Utley’s extension will be for two years with at least one option, according to a source. The dollar amount was not clear, but something similar to St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran’s two-year, $26 million contract seems likely. CBS Sports said Utley was expected to get two years and $27 million. Utley is in the final year of a seven-year, $85 million contract. He made $15 million per season from 2010 to 2013.
There is risk to this deal. Utley missed significant time in 2011 and 2012 with a degenerative knee condition. He has not had a problem with his knees this season, though he did miss a month with a strained oblique.
“I've felt good since I came back last year,” Utley said. “I feel like the program that we’ve been doing has worked. I’ve been able to stay on the field for the most part and be fairly productive. I plan on continuing to do that.”
Utley, a five-time all-star, is considered the best second baseman in franchise history. His hard-nosed style of play has long made him a favorite of fans and club management. Amaro has frequently said he wanted to make Utley a Phillie for life.
This new contract is a step in that direction.
“Chase is pretty much the face of the franchise,” Cole Hamels said. “He does things right. He’s done things right since Day 1. He’s the typical Philly athlete and Philly ballplayer. 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.”