Chase Utley

Trade candidate? Giants reportedly scouting Chase Utley

The San Francisco Giants’ bench for Sunday’s game wasn’t a pretty sight.

  • Angel Pagan, who was pressed into action in the third inning after Jake Arrieta beaned Nori Aoki
  • Kelby Tomlinson, a recent call-up who was hitless in his previous seven at-bats
  • Hector Sanchez, who hit .196 last year and came into the game with a .167 average
  • Justin Maxwell, who Bruce Bochy isn’t fond of using as a pinch-hitter against righties

So it isn’t all that surprising that according to CSN Philly, the Giants are checking out Chase Utley, the decorated second baseman who was plunked by Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6 of the 2010 NLDS. Utley returned this weekend for a nice little three-game trade showcase after missing a month and a half.

The Cubs have had some interest. The Angels, too. The Yankees have been mentioned.

But the team that might have the most interest of all could be the San Francisco Giants. Joe Panik, their All-Star second baseman, is on the disabled list with lower back inflammation. He is expected to return, but Utley might be a nice insurance policy, not to mention a pinch-hitter and winning clubhouse presence.

The Giants had a scout in San Diego for the entire Phillies series and sources tell CSNPhilly.com that the scout was indeed keeping tabs on Utley.

If this sounds familiar, the Giants were rumored to be looking at Utley a year ago. Much has changed since then. The Giants would’ve had to part with multiple pitching prospects to get Utley last year. This was around the time when everyone seemed to think Joe Panik was at least a year away and probably not all that good anyway, and the Giants decided to go dumpster diving and came up with Dan Uggla. The Phillies couldn’t possibly expect anything more than a middling prospect this time around in return for Utley, who’s done next to nothing this season.

The particulars, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors:

San Francisco may be an ideal trade destination for Utley, as his family’s offseason home is in the Bay Area.  He has no-trade protection as a 10-and-5 player, and Utley has said he’s open to exploring whatever trade options the Phillies bring to him.

Utley is owed approximately $2.25MM for the remainder of the season, and he has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that will be unlocked if he receives 500 plate appearances this season.  He has 259 PA after today’s action, and his lengthy DL stint makes it unlikely he’ll reach that vesting plateau.  With less than 500 PA, the option become a club option worth between $5MM-$11MM (depending on time spent on the DL) with a $2MM buyout.

The Giants are in a spot where they could keep the Cubs from claiming Utley, and he sure seems like a fit given their history and the injuries that have hit their roster. The Giants have had some luck in prior years with veteran second basemen who thrived in a pennant race before falling apart the next year (it’s known in San Francisco as the “Freddy Scutaro” method). Utley already seems to be in the “falling apart” phase of his career at age 36, with an ankle injury that’s bothered him since January, but six weeks off apparently did him some good. He went 4-for-10 over the weekend with three doubles, raising his total on the season to 10.

Utley is hitting just .189/.263/.294 this year … but the Giants are desperate and he’s the kind of guy they love to acquire this time of year.

If Panik is healthy enough to start from the moment he’s eligible to come off the disabled list, that still means they’ll have to make do with Ehire Adrianza or Tomlinson for seven more games. If Panik’s back doesn’t get better soon, the Giants’ lineup will look pretty ordinary for an extended period — especially if Aoki ends up missing significant time due to concussion symptoms. (They could very well be on the lookout for outfield help via waivers, too.)

The Giants will be in St. Louis when Panik is eligible to return. Then they head to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates, who walloped the Dodgers on Sunday night with a nine-run inning off Jim Johnson to complete a three-game sweep. Then it’s a homestand against the Cubs and Cards, followed by three games in L.A. The Giants are 17-19 vs. over-.500 teams after getting swept in Chicago — with how they currently look and what they’re facing, this is a pivotal time in the season.

Money shouldn’t be an issue, since Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans didn’t crush the budget this past offseason or at the trade deadline. As for other options at second base, Everth Cabrera is hitting .244/.320/.267 in 11 games with the River Cats. Adrianza has been OK, but a reasonably healthy Utley is still a much more intimidating presence.

***

Bruce and Kim Bochy’s Pizza Party

Acquiring Utley would certainly put Bochy in a better mode, since he’s a veteran with a good resume. A fantastic resume, actually. Utley has made the six National League All-Star teams including last season, but Bochy has never gotten a chance to manage him in that game. Bochy did come back from Cincinnati with some cool stuff for his pizza party, however:

BochyRafflePic

That’s a ball signed by every NL All-Star (including Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Panik). That’s one of more than 50 things you can win (here’s a list of prizes, including a Hunter Pence autographed bat and a 2015 Giants autographed team ball). You can either buy raffle prizes here or at either San Francisco Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria location on Wednesday, Aug. 12, where Bruce and Kim Bochy will be attending their third annual pizza party fund raiser for San Francisco Homeless Prenatal Program after the Giants face the Astros.

All the money from the raffle goes to HPP, along with 100% of the proceeds from both Amici’s locations from 3-10 pm on Wednesday. That’s when fans can get a chance to rub elbows with Bochy, and maybe even a few special guests. Also, if you’re looking for some pizza for breakfast on Wednesday, Murph and Mac will do their show from the King Street location and Amici’s will hand out free slices all morning. I’ll definitely be at Amici’s throughout the evening — it’s been a great event for a couple years now, one that Giants fans won’t want to miss.

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