Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is one step closer to getting traded to another team.
Utley cleared waivers on Tuesday, meaning the Phils can now negotiate with all 30 teams for a potential trade of franchise icon. However, it's far from a slam dunk that he will get moved this month.
Utley still has the final say on whether he switches uniforms or not, with his 10-5 no-trade rights still in effect. That means, no matter what, Utley must agree to a trade, something he has said he is reluctant to do.
His option for 2016 is no longer likely to vest, meaning any team that acquires him will be on the hook for about $4.5 million this year. And even though Utley is hitting just .190/.262/.294 in 263 PAs this season with just four home runs and 15 extra-base hits, he has hit well since returning from the disabled list.
In four games, Utley has five hits in 14 plate appearances with three extra-base hits, three runs scored and three RBIs. It's a very, very, very small sample size to be sure, but his swing has looked crisper at the plate since he's come back.
If Chase can prove he's healthy over the next couple weeks, there will certainly be a number of suitors for him. The Chicago Cubs inquired about him before the trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants had a scout to watch him in San Diego, and the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees were also rumored to have some level of interest as well.
The Giants make some sense, as long as the team believes star second baseman Joe Panik is going to be out for an extended amount of time due to a back injury. Team officials don't think he will, but Utley might be good insurance in case Panik's back goes balky.
The Dodgers just lost Howie Kendrick to the disabled list due to a hamstring strain, but he's not expected to be out too long. So while a reunion of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in L.A. would be interesting, it's not likely to happen.
The Cubs are currently using Chris Coghlan at second base after benching shortstop Starlin Castro and moving Addison Russell to shortstop full-time. And while Coghlan has a .248 batting average, .334 on-base percentage and OPS of .750, all better numbers than Utley, a solid couple weeks by Chase could make him a more appealing option to Chicago. Utley's postseason experience and clubhouse presence could also be a boon to a Cubs team trying to make the playoffs with a bunch of rookies.
The Angels are using Johnny Giavotella at second right now, who has a .677 OPS and 3 homers in 385 at-bats this season. A healthy and productive Utley would certainly be an upgrade for them. And as bad as Utley has looked for most of this season, the Yankees are still running out Stephen Drew to second on a regular basis, he of the .192 batting average and .261 on-base percentage in 291 ABs.
Of course, the only way a team is going to make a deal for Utley is if he proves he's healthy and productive. And those are not slam dunks. Not only that, Utley has all the power in these negotiations, able to pick and choose his ultimate destination.
As far as what the Phils could seek in return? I doubt it would be much more than a C-level prospect, a potential bullpen piece somewhere down the line. There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding Utley right now, and a team is not likely to give up a prime prospect in exchange for a one-month rental in the midst of a shaky season.
When asked about other teams potentially being interested in acquiring his services, Utley said last weekend "I would be more than happy to listen to them" out of "respect for the team." And perhaps he is more willing to leave now than he was at the beginning of the season.
Nevertheless, it's ultimately up to him.