Jim Salisbury dropped a bomb this morning. He seemed to kind of know he was dropping a bomb, since he wrote his article in almost exclusively one sentence paragraphs, but we'll let that slide. Anyway, Salisbury penned this article basically speculating that the Phillies may be leaning not toward a Chase Utley trade, but a Chase Utley extension.
So, like, big news huh?
There are a few things to keep in mind, of course, before getting too excited. First, Salisbury doesn't provide even a full assertion of a likely extension in this article. The piece is filled with enough caveats to satisfy a defense attorney with an advanced degree in rhetoric -- the first line is a question; the second line is, with my emphasis, "The hunch here is that they might be;" the third line is "Something seems to be brewing." This is not exactly a ringing surety that Salisbury is conveying, to be sure. Second, Salisbury's proof of the extension seems to be primarily signs and omens: the logic of Amaro's answers to the press; hushed meetings between RAJ and Chase at the ballpark; and speculation on the reasons the Phillies are keeping Chase off the trade market. Beyond this, it is upon the word of the ubiquitous "person with knowledge of the situation" that we and Salisbury must base the veracity of the Utley news.
Allowing Shakespeare to put it more finely, the story seems like it may be just "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing."
But there's reason to believe it as well. Our very own JoeCatz reminded me this morning that Salisbury often, ah, has the ear of Ruben more than other beats. If RAJ wanted to push something out to the press without making an on the record comment about it, then it would make sense that he'd use Salisbury to do it.
Also, Chase would actually have a reasonable incentive to sign an extension with the Phillies now -- he could expect a Qualifying Offer from the team, if they don't trade him, and being tied to a draft pick would likely limit his market value fairly significantly, a la Kyle Lohse. Secondly, it can't be great to be the "other" 2B on the market when Robinson Cano is getting his first big deal. And third, if he can wrangle a fairly modest 3/36 out of Ruben, there's likely to be some solid surplus value for him at the end of the deal.
For the Phillies, it'd make sense to lock up a franchise icon until his (likely) retirement, and it'd be great to get Robinson Cano production (Cano has a wRC+ of 140 versus Chase's wRC+ of 137; more from schmenkman later, I'm sure) at a decidedly non-Cano price. Plus it'd make us all feel good.
So in conclusion, looks like there might be smoke and fire here after all. Stay tuned -- we'll keep you apprised on this, the dawn of CHASE UTLEY EXTENSION WATCH, 2013.