The Phillies are the worst team in the majors this season, and it’s quite possibly that Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been the worst player in the majors this season. So it’s not surprising that he’s going on the DL with an ankle injury. And it also wouldn’t be surprising if management were thrilled about this development. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:
Utley is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. His batting average and OPS are last among 163 qualified hitters in baseball.
The Phillies almost certainly do not mind Utley’s trip to the DL because he has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 through the team’s first 73 games. Depending on how much time he misses and how well Cesar Hernandez plays as his replacement, the option could no longer be an issue upon his return.
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“Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.”
Even these days, $15 million is a fair amount of money! Plus, if the Phillies are paying Utley $15 million next season, they’ll probably be tempted to actually keep him on the roster, maybe give him a few hundred more plate appearances.
Granted, the injury might be mooted by the Phillies’ clear (if unacknowledged by them) interest in keeping next year’s option from vesting, combined with his performance, which should allow them to bench him from time to time down the stretch with plausible deniability.
Then again, given all the examples of mismanagement we’ve seen in the last five years, just about anything seems possible.