Ruben Amaro Hopes Chase Utley Is a Phillie for Life

Ruben Amaro Hopes Chase Utley Is a Phillie for Life

While the Phillies sail into Pittsburgh for three games with the Pirates, trade winds are gusting back home. They must be getting strong, because even the heavy stuff is starting to get blown away.

Chase Utley figures to be one of the Phils’ most coveted pieces as the deadline approaches. A free agent at the end of the season, Bob Ford writes the time is now to move Utley in Tuesday’s Inquirer. There’s even a rumor circulating that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Utley’s hometown team, could have interest.

I’m sure plenty of teams would have some level of interest in a second baseman with an OPS of .866, so who exactly is beside the point. To trade Utley anywhere would be a polarizing decision.

He is the Phillies’ last sacred cow.

Nobody cares if mercenaries like Jonathan Papelbon or Michael Young go. As long as the price was right for Cliff Lee, most folks would understand. Jimmy Rollins has been an everyday player for the Fightins since 2001, but I doubt there would be much of an outcry from an occasionally under-appreciative fan base.

It’s probably fair to say none of the stars during this waning era of Phillies baseball ever achieved and maintained the kind of popularity across the board as Utley. Missing most of the previous two seasons and spring trainings with knee issues may have cut into his cache a little, but he remains the most universally beloved player inside that dugout.

At 34, Utley is proving he can still play, too. He’s already matched his home run total from the last two seasons with 11 – doing in 54 games what took 83 and 103 before – and he should surpass the 16 he bashed in 2010 as long as he stays healthy. His batting average is .284. We’ll see how Utley is holding up come September, but as of now it looks like he’s turned the clock back by three years.

Unfortunately the facts are Utley is not under contract beyond this season, and the Phillies continue to sink in the standings. It’s only natural for other teams to inquire about the second baseman’s availability.

Given the age, the medical history, the free agency, Ruben Amaro Jr. has to consider a future without Utley – although even the Phils’ general manager seems reluctant to do so. In an interview with CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler, Amaro put over the notion that the 11-year vereran could finish his career in red pinstripes.

"He's been an iconic player for us," general manager Ruben Amaro said Friday. "My intention would be to keep him in our uniform for the rest of his career, if possible.

"I kind of view Chase as a Phillie for life. That's my hope."

There are undoubtedly sentimental Phillies fans who would like to see that happen as well. The way he’s swinging the bat these days, it’s not difficult to convince yourself the organization could maybe squeeze a couple more campaigns out of Utley before he becomes a shell of his former self.

Another sect of followers would rather see the Phils embrace the rebuild. We hear it over and over again, that professional sports is a business, and executives can’t make decisions based on emotional attachment. Who knows how much longer Utley can perform at a high level.

Of course, somebody has to play second base next season. Is there a better option out there, whether it comes from in the farm system or elsewhere?

Is it important that Utley be able to finish his career in Philadelphia? Does he want to finish his career in Philadelphia, where the glory days of NL East titles and World Series runs are quickly disappearing? What kind of contract would it take to keep him?

These are all important questions, but when the phone starts ringing, they could all be trumped by one: “How much?”

>> Ruben Amaro: 'I view Chase Utley as a Phillie for life' [CBS]
>> Now is the time for Phillies to trade Utley [Inq]

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).