2013 Bold Prediction: Paul Boye

It’s difficult to imagine life before – or without – Chase Utley manning second base for the Phillies. Even as he battled through numerous injuries, his absence was constantly noticed and discussed. There was no settling period. It certainly didn’t help that his fill-ins were, in some order and volume, Juan Castro, Mike Fontenot, Michael Martinez, Pete Orr, Cody Ransom and Wilson Valdez. Even Freddy Galvis’s slick glove wasn’t quite enough to make us all forget that, no, that still wasn’t Chase out there.

So now, as we approach the end of Utley’s seven-year, $85 million contract, the final reality of his departure finally seems, well, real. This isn’t an injury to eventually return from, and that’s a bit scary.

In the post-Jackie Robinson era, only Tony Taylor and Granny Hamner have played more games at second base for the Phillies, and neither of them has donned red pinstripes since 1976 and 1959, respectively, making Utley the face of second base for multiple generations. Consider: no Phillies second-bagger has more home runs, doubles, runs scored, runs created or rWAR than Utley, and none has a higher OBP (min. 300 games), among a number of another top-five appearances on various club leaderboards.

You get it. This is the same song we’ve been singing for a while. Now, though, the threat of the Utley Era coming to its end is bearing down upon us.

But I’m not convinced of that. In fact, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: Chase Utley will sign a contract extension before season’s end, and it will be his last Major League deal. He will retire as a member of the Phillies on this deal.


It’s easy to write off such thinking as quixotic; some rose-colored drivel powered by emotion far more than rationality. Such claims would have merit, especially as they apply to me and my admiration of Utley, but I feel like I’ve taken enough time to think about this and still feel like this is not only a rational outcome but a likely one.

You can see some tidbits above that help to illustrate how important Utley is and has been to the franchise. The only places his contributions may have been understated would be Most Valuable Player and Gold Glove ballots.

But historical value alone is not a reason to retain a player. If we all waxed poetic over every impending free agent, the likelihood of this team ever improving would likely decrease. No, there’s something else at work here.

First, let’s acknowledge the risks we’re talking about here. Utley turned 34 this past December and has two frail knees; knees that have cost him in the neighborhood of 130-140 games the past two seasons. The Phillies are also desperate to stay under the luxury tax threshold, and Utley will cost more to retain than Freddy Galvis and whoever they find to be a backup or to work in tandem.

As a brief aside, don’t even let your mind wander to Robinson Cano. That’s a fella guaranteed to get far more money than the Phillies can give, should he even reach free agency.

As things currently stand, the Phillies will have holes at catcher, second base, third base and, presumably, corner outfield to fill next offseason, in addition to a starting pitcher vacancy if Roy Halladay leaves. There will be money to spend, however; Cole Hamels is due for a $3 million raise and Ryan Howard a $5 million bump, but the Phillies will have somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million to spend on filling out the roster, assuming the same budget (it’s worth noting that the tax threshold is set to be raised by $11 million, from $178M to $189M, in 2014).

That’s not an unlimited amount of money, but the retention of Utley given those restrictions not only still feels important, it also feels feasible and practical.

Utley’s final year under his current deal will pay him $15,285,714, a number he will not earn again. Even if he plays a full, healthy year and puts up numbers comparable to those we as Phillies fans are used to – at least in the vein of what he did in 2011-12, when on the field – his next contract will not pay him $15M in AAV. Granted, a lot depends on Robinson Cano’s yet-unsigned “next deal,” which may become the precursor for any Utley talks. Cano is, with little doubt, the top position player prize on the free agent market (as things currently stand) following the 2013 season in a modestly deep but fairly weak free agent class. Utley, if he stays healthy, could be second-best overall and is certainly second-best in an unimpressive second base group, especially with Ben Zobrist likely to be re-upped on option.

Couple that with a less-than-stunning bushel of trade chips and the alternative seems to be Freddy Galvis: starting second baseman. Now, from a defensive standpoint, Galvis resembles peak Utley. The drop-off there would be negligible. Offensively, though, there would be a problem. Galvis posted a .326 OBP in 464 plate appearances for Double-A Reading in 2012, the highest of his professional career. His .727 OPS there was also the highest he posted at any Minor League stop. Over the past three seasons, Utley has averaged  a .367 OBP and .800 OPS at the Major League level. Even as Utley ages, the overlap between the offensive production he and Galvis would provide isn’t likely to be great in the next two to three seasons.

From my perspective, Freddy Galvis stands to be an excellent defensive replacement during his Major League career; a fine bench player. Should he learn to competently play more positions, he could become even more valuable with defensive super-utility. Chase Utley is not done, at least not until his knees demand he be. Utley will cost more, and will come with the perpetual worry of re-injury. But he is, realistically, the best second base option for the Phillies both this season and in 2014. As long as he is healthy, he and the Phillies should continue operating with the symbiosis that has given them both (in addition to the fans) so much. Ideally, I’d like something for two years and $18-24 million with a vesting third year, but whatever the final figures, he’ll get signed.

And that’s what will happen.

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23 comments

  1. Pencilfish

    March 27, 2013 09:57 AM

    I hope you are right, because I, too, would like to see Utley retire as a Phillie, but consider this:

    1) Bad knees don’t get better as one ages. It gets worse, in spite of modern medical treatment techniques. Utley’s stats are likely to worsen as he ages, so 2012 *may* represent a ceiling, not a floor.

    2) Galvis is 23, and he unlikely to have peaked offensively-speaking already. Granted, he is not Utley and probably will never be, but a much more important question is how does Galvis compare with the average major league 2B? I bet he compares more favorably than a straight comparison with Utley.

    3) As you pointed out, the Phillies need to fill a bunch of positions (C, 3B, 2B, OF and SP) next year. The Phillies can make up the difference in OBP and OPS between Utley and Galvis from C, 3B or OF.

    Having said that, I do hope Utley plays well enough to earn the extension. A divorce would look really ugly, and seeing him as a DH in the AL would be painful.

  2. hampton

    March 27, 2013 10:23 AM

    Good analysis, though I think Galvis’ defense may be underrated here. I do wonder, though, if Utley rebounds to something like .285/.370/.495 whether he wouldn’t be offered $45M over three years from an AL team in need of a lefthanded bat. Glad the Yanks have Cano, which puts them out of the bidding!

  3. Jonny5

    March 27, 2013 10:36 AM

    I like Galvis, he has room to improve offensively and is young enough to where I can see it happening. And Utley, as much as I love him. He scares the hell out of me when it comes to any talk of contracts. As it should.

  4. Jesse

    March 27, 2013 12:31 PM

    No love for my favorite “Utley down! Utley down!” replacement Tad Iguchi?
    Or that guy who turned an unassisted triple play, whoever he was?

    I too would want Utley (along with Rollins and Ruiz) to remain Phils forever. Howard, for instance, is only someone I wouldn’t want to face on the other team, but like Burrell and Werth, be more than happy to stand up and clap every one of his visitor ABs…

  5. TomG

    March 27, 2013 12:40 PM

    There was not a dry eye in my head as I read this tribute to Utley (that’s two wet eyes if you’re keeping score at home), the “sentimentality” of which I agree with wholeheartedly. True, Utley’s knees may give out next year, or even this, but he’s worth the risk of re-signing at any reasonable asking price. I just think he’s a smart player and will find a way to cope with the knees if it is even remotely possible to do so. He’s also the essence of what I want “being a Phille” to mean – I already point to Utley when I talk to my 13-year-old and say, “That‘s what it means to be a Phillie.” (Like shooting fish in a barrel: Utley’s already his favorite.)

    And so for reasons that are even more unabashedly sentimental than yours, I want Utley to end his career in the red pinstripes.

    And may that end be years off in the distant future.

  6. pedro3131

    March 27, 2013 01:01 PM

    I don’t know why you guys are expecting Galvis to develop more as a batter. It’s not like people magically get better at the plate just because they’re older. He lacks the skills, as evidenced by any multitude of his accumulated stats in the minors, as well as conventional scouting reports, to ever turn into a good batter. How does he compare to other 2nd basemen is a better question, but I don’t think he rates out favorably to them either

  7. Paul Boye

    March 27, 2013 01:46 PM

    I’m admittedly more down on Galvis as an offensive player than some. And I think my leveling of their defensive abilities is less an underrating of Freddy and more a correction for how peak Utley should be viewed.

  8. Richard

    March 27, 2013 01:56 PM

    Right: Utley has been in the conversation as the greatest defensive infielder of his generation. If Galvis is seen as only a tick below that, odds are he’s not being underrated.

  9. Phillie697

    March 27, 2013 02:01 PM

    @Paul,

    There was no underrating of Freddy there. Freddy WISHES he can be Utley’s equal at his peak in defensive capability. From 2005-2009, Utley was the best defensive 2B in MLB, period. It’s pretty much the ceiling of what Freddy can achieve.

    Why there is so much hype about Galvis, I would never know. I rather spend my time thinking about how to clone Utley than thinking about Galvis as possibly our 2B of the future.

  10. Chris S.

    March 27, 2013 02:41 PM

    Galvis’s future is at SS if Rollins retires at the end of his current contract. I hope that Utley is around for the next 5 years. I can’t imagine the Phillies without Utley nor do I want to.

  11. Chris S.

    March 27, 2013 02:57 PM

    I think it is also important to point out that Galvis, albeit in 58 games, had a career high in ISO last year and was the bearer of bad luck with a BAPIP of .253. With a more normalized BAPIP, say around .290 he could become a really nice role player if he can sustain his ISO. He could neet the Phillies about 2 WAR per year out of the SS position. Which if that happened last year would be a top 15 SS in the league per Fangraphs. Not too shabby imo.

  12. The Howling Fantods

    March 27, 2013 04:16 PM

    Top 15 in the NL, which I assume means 15th, is slightly better than league average, as the 2 WAR would indicate. Obviously that’s still valuable while under cost control, but that already assumes his BABIP will normalize, which is no sure thing.

    Anyway, I just want Utley to remain on the team until his natural death of old age. I don’t care if he’s a starter or not. Is that really so much to ask? :(

  13. Chris

    March 27, 2013 06:29 PM

    I wonder what the attendance drop would be if they let him walk…I know there are alot of other factors at play there, but still…this guy has been an integral part of the greatest era in Phillies history, and still is many fans’ favorite player.

  14. Jonny5

    March 27, 2013 08:35 PM

    @Pedro3131, I’d say because he has continued to improve with his batting and he’s only 23. Utley couldn’t break onto the major league roster at that age. Utley only got 152 PA’s at age 24 and continued to improve right up to the ripe old age of 28-29. So If Galvis can also improve every year for the next 4-5 seasons, he’s going to be worth a position. Nobody is claiming he’s the second coming of Utley or anything.

  15. boredjake

    March 28, 2013 04:42 AM

    Im less worried about Utley’s knees than some. As a runner and elite rower, I’ve fought the same knee issues Utley did. Based on what I’ve read, Utley made the mistake of inactivity in the 2010 and 2011 offseasons. Thinking rest was the answer. It’s not. When your knee caps are tracking improperly, the only way to improve that situation is through constant physical therapy/workouts. Building your hamstrings, glutes and quads into balance. Rest doesn’t do that. THis offseason Utley didn’t rest. He worked out- supervised- and looks great.
    I’m the same age as Chase, and had knee problems at the same time. Once you figure out workout routine that works for your body, you tend to do pretty well long term.

    Add in a smarter manager that knows when to give a guy a few days off, and I think Utley is good for 130-140 games a season for the next 2-3 years. At this production levels, even declining ones, that’s going to be worth 2-3WAR. $5mil per war puts you in the 10-15ml AAV. 15′s too high so I think 2y 20mm with vesting 3y is really reasonable and not a complete albatross on the Phillies neck.

    As for Galvis, it’s not an either or situation. Keep Galvis. Maybe he can learn to play 3rd. Over those 2-3 years He’ll get plenty of time spelling Rollins and Utley. When Rollins leaves I think Gavlis becomes your SS. That’s more valuable than putting him at second.

  16. Cheesecrop

    March 28, 2013 05:16 AM

    It seems as though the team is already experimenting w/the idea of Galvis as a “super-sub”, if his left field sojourn is any clue.

    It would be nice to see Utley stay, & doubly nice if the Phils did something to make it happen. In the meantime, be it Galvis or someone else, it would still be nice to have a quality back-up plan here, in case his knees go bad in a yr. or two.

  17. NickFromGermantown

    March 28, 2013 08:21 AM

    People really seem to overvalue Galvis’ defense. Sure, Galvis is a wizard with the glove. But even if “significantly” better than Utley at his peak, how much incremental value does Galvis’ defense bring to the table? And are people forgetting that Galvis recently served a suspension for using a banned substance? What kind of a drop-off should we expect to see there?

  18. ZfromG

    March 28, 2013 01:56 PM

    There are two reasons imo why Galvis right now is a far better defensive secondbaseman than Utley ever was in his prime, and I’m a surprised these don’t get mentioned more often, but since they’re things that don’t necessarily show up on paper I understand how they get overlooked:

    1. Speed/range. Galvis is faster than Utley. Faster than 30 year old Utley, faster than 20 year old Utley, period. While we all have images in our minds of Utley making fantastic diving and sliding plays, I wonder how many of these plays Galvis could have turned without leaving his feet. It’s something that doesn’t (traditionally) translate onto paper, nor highlight reels, but it’s worth considering.

    2. Arm. Utley’s always had a sub-par arm. It’s the reason he plays second and not short or third. It’s true that he could feasibly play these positions without much trouble but you’re still talking valuable split-seconds that over the course of a season translate into something much more significant. Galvis has a cannon, it’s why he can play short, third, and now as we’ve seen, outfield. Starting Galvis at 2nd means that many more double plays turned, that many more runners potentially gunned at third or the plate (Utley’s had a history of airing these, and other throwing issues; see: sports.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2009/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=4570916). I recognize of course that Galvis is not error-prone, but I attribute this more to youth and inexperience than an actual lack of juice in his arm.

    Offensively it is unlikely that Galvis will ever be able to fill Utley’s shoes, but the reality is not many players, let alone secondbasemen, can. What makes Utley so great isn’t just his talent but his baseball smarts and his instincts for the game. The best part is that Galvis once in a while flashes this potential as well, which I’m sure is what Manuel sees in him. In the end I would argue that Galvis’ defense is actually undervalued, in that his advantages over Utley at second plus his flexibility as a “super-utility man” as someone else said make him indispensible to a team sorely missing depth.

  19. ZfromG

    March 28, 2013 01:58 PM

    that Galvis IS error prone* is what I meant to say

  20. Phillie697

    March 28, 2013 03:29 PM

    If you don’t play defense like Ozzie Smith or Brooks Robinson, you’re not going to be a star in the majors just by playing awesome defense, and Galvis is NOT that good.

    @ZfromG,

    We all can come up with BS about why this or that person should or would be better than someone in this or that, but in the end, it has to be measurable to mean something. Galvis’s 5.6 UZR in 200 PA was absolutely fantastic, slightly below Utley’s 17.5 in 628 PA in 2005 and 19.5 UZR in 707 PA in 2008, but (1) it was only 200 PA, which makes it an incredibly unreliable stat, (2) if you ask me if that 5.6 UZR in 200 PA is a fluke or actual indication of Galvis’s skills, I’m inclined to, for now, think the former because I’m sorry, talent like Utley comes once a generation, and I’m not going to believe someone is a generational talent based on 200 PA.

    I don’t care that your eyes tells you that someone LOOKS like he should get to more balls. I want to know who actually DID get to more balls.

  21. ZfromG

    March 28, 2013 04:33 PM

    @Phillie697,

    We can all throw around numbers about why this person should/would be better than someone, but in the end it’s about who can come up with numbers which are more convincing (keeping in mind that I really don’t buy into numbers completely).

    You’re right that the sample size is too small to tell at this point. But if you want to approach this from a purely numbers standpoint, what Freddy did over a relatively short period seems on par with the start Utley got. Case in point: consider the numbers for Utley’s 2004 season vs. Galvis’ 2012 season.

    In 410.1 innings, Utley had a UZR of 4.6 and a UZR/150 of 16.5.

    In 416.0 innings, Galvis had a UZR of 5.1 and a UZR/150 of 16.3.

    (Also interesting to compare the defensive stat lines over these periods… Utley with 4 errors, Galvis with 1. Again, not a good indication, but still. Very similar DP lines, as well as games played/started, which is actually pretty interesting.)

    Again, I recognize that these are extremely small sample sizes, but if you want to talk about flukes and indications, I’d say the playing field is about level in that regard, pun intended.

    Actually, maybe it’s not so even. Because as far as numbers go, in 2004 Utley was 25; in 2012, Galvis was 22. Keep in mind as well that Utley had some ML experience the previous year, whereas Galvis hadn’t had any. So all things considered, Galvis’ defensive numbers are perhaps more impressive considering his youth and inexperience. The offensive numbers are lacking (although Galvis did have more doubles in less PA), and it’s no guarantee that they’ll improve with age, but he’s certainly far from a hopeless case.

    So as far as who DID get to more balls… of course Utley got to more, because he’s had a longer career. That’s like saying Utley’s better because he’s hit more longballs. The fact is that only so much of the game can be played out on paper. In today’s game, for instance, Galvis made two plays that Utley I’m not sure Utley would have made at any point in his career–throwing out Reyes at third on the right field bloop, and another play up the middle with a strong off-balance throw. Again, I can’t prove these things because there simply aren’t numbers to prove them, but you have to see the kinds of things that managers and GMs see, which is more than just the statline–if it were only about numbers, anybody vaguely mathmatically inclined with an internet connection could run a team.

    I’m not saying Galvis is better overall than Utley, or even that I think he should replace him right now. I just think he has a bright future and there’s not as much reason to be down on him as people think.

  22. Phillie697

    March 28, 2013 04:58 PM

    Again, I’ll reiterate, Galvis’s 5.6 UZR in 200 PA is FANTASTIC. It’s in fact Utley-esk. But if you want me to proclaim that he’s as good as Utley or even better, I need more than 200 PA of UZR data, especially when Utley was generationally good. And I’m JUST talking about defensive skills. There is absolutely NOTHING to rely on to say he is as good or better than Utley other than conjecture, and I tend not to proclaim things on conjecture.

  23. Phillie697

    March 28, 2013 05:00 PM

    And there IS a reason to be down on him; he can’t freaking hit. Again I refer you to the Ozzie Smith/Brooks Robinson comment.

    Can he be a productive regular? Sure. But let’s back off on the Utley examples. He’s not Chase Utley.

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