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Should the Phillies have kept Chase Utley?

Chase Utley is once again playing like "The Man" in Los Angeles.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There's a line in The Shawshank Redemption, a monologue spoken beautifully by Morgan Freeman's character "Red," bemoaning the loss of his friend Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, after Andy had escaped from prison.

As he reminisced about the good times he shared with Andy, Red grew wistful. And while he acknowledged happiness in Andy's escape, he also mourned losing his friend.

"Sometimes it makes me sad, though. Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up, does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone.

I guess I just miss my friend."

Which brings us to our old pal, Chase Utley, who has moved on from his life with the Phillies in Philadelphia. And, much like Andy sanding his fishing boat on a Mexican beach in the sun, he's having a blast in his new locale.

As the Dodgers' primary leadoff hitter, Utley is batting .314/.368/.457 in 76 plate appearances, with six doubles, two triples, five RBIs and 10 runs scored. He has a wRC+ of 122 and a wOBA of .360, plus an fWAR of 0.6.

Among qualified NL second basemen, his fWAR is fifth behind Daniel Murphy, Jean Segura, Joe Panik, and Neil Walker. And it is far better than the one that has been posted by Cesar Hernandez so far this year, a replacement-level 0.0 fWAR.

And wouldn't you know it? Utley is having a damn good time playing baseball once again.

On Sunday, Chase had what was perhaps his best moment in years when, in the top of the 9th with the game tied 10-10 and a runner on second with two out, he hit a line-drive double to right field that turned out to be the game winning hit.

After the knock, Chase was pumped.

It's still early in the season. That must be said about any story written this time of year. Utley could slump and go back to being the player who hit .217/.284/.333 with a .617 OPS in his final 73 games with the Phils last year. And Hernandez could pick up the pace and once again provide some speed and contact at the bottom of the Phillies lineup (although I'm not counting on the second part).

But the question must be asked. Were the Phillies wrong to give up on Chase Utley?

Last summer, Chase's trade value was at its absolute lowest. An injury surprisingly wiped out the vesting options on the then-36-year-old's deal, turning him into a free agent-to-be. He appeared to be on the severe downslope of his career and, at the time, Hernandez was playing well.

Utley had full 10-5 rights and had been adamant that he did not want to be traded. However, he relented when the Los Angeles Dodgers came calling and offered Darnell Sweeney (who has not done much since being acquired) and John Richy (who has been injured). The Phils accepted the deal and Utley was sent to the city where he played his college ball, Los Angeles, the only place he would agree to go to.

In the off-season, Utley re-signed with the Dodgers and it was assumed he would platoon with Howie Kendrick. However, Kendrick started the season injured while Utley took hold of the lead-off job. And now he won't let go.

Utley would be perfect at the top of this Phillies lineup, batting second in between Herrera and Franco. Or, at the top of the lineup with Herrera second and Franco third.

But of course, hindsight is 20-20. No one saw Chase producing like this. There was no way to know. And more than anything else, the Phillies traded Utley last year in part to do him a favor. They got him back into the playoffs (where he became the world's greatest monster, of course) and he appears primed to go back there again.

Even if the Phillies had held onto Utley, he still would have become a free agent this off-season. And it's unlikely the Phils would have pursued him for their second base job, anyway. They wanted to see if Hernandez would take hold of the job and run with it.

So far, that hasn't happened.

But that doesn't mean the Phils should have kept Chase Utley. Sure, it would be really cool to see him doing these things in a Phillies uniform right now, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

So we'll just have to remember Utley and his bright feathers and smile when we picture him working on his fishing boat in the sand, clapping his hands together on a team that has World Series aspirations.

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