Report: Phillies Considering Chase Utley for Bench Coach
While a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, second baseman Chase Utley was well-revered for being a leader on the field. When new manager Gabe Kapler spoke at his introductory press conference and then later that day as he spoke to various media outlets, Kapler regularly mentioned Utley when speaking of his management style. So, might the Phillies consider Utley for a coaching position?
There are reasons that this would make sense and reasons that it would not.
As to why it makes sense: It is somewhat odd that the Phillies have yet to name a bench coach. While in the past I thought perhaps the Phillies would go in the direction of Kapler's mentor and friend Bill Haselman, currently Triple-A Oklahoma manager in the Dodgers system, he probably would have been hired by now if that was the case. One reason there could be a hold up: a veteran player trying to see if he could get one more contract.
The free agency period is only a few weeks old at this point. It might be just enough time for Utley to get a sense of what types of offers he might have on the table. In the past, Utley seemed to consider only the Dodgers after the Phillies were moving forward with Cesar Hernandez as second baseman. Utley may have a sense at this point if the Phillies or Dodgers are willing to employ him as a bench player or not.
Why it does not make sense: Utley has earned north of $130 million in his major league career. Would he really want to stay in a 162-game schedule with the travel of a major league player for perhaps $150,000 in compensation as a coach? Money may not be an issue for Utley anymore, but if Utley was going to retire, he may wish to enjoy it. Utley could always be a Spring Training instructor like so many former Phillies have been.
Further, will Utley's "lead by example" approach translate into leadership at the coaching level? Utley has never one to be overly vocal. The bench coach has the responsibility of running Spring Training camp and often has to be a strong voice with the ballclub. I would not say that Utley cannot do that, but it sounds like a new type of leadership for Utley.
I also wonder if the Phillies would really keep adding young coaches to a staff that is limited in experience. Aside from veteran coaches Rick Kranitz and John Mallee, the Phillies have newcomers in Kapler, Dusty Wathan, and Pedro Guerrero. With only two spots left to fill (first base and bench) the Phillies might want a seasoned coach.
Finally, if the Phillies were interested in Utley helping their young team, how about signing him to a one-year contract for $2 million to be a bench player? Those were Utley's terms last season with the Dodgers. Utley could provide the leadership as a left-handed bat off the bench, occasional left-handed first base option, and maybe as left-handed second baseman once in a while if the Phillies give the daily job to Scott Kingery.
Granted, Utley batted just .234 last season and went hitless in 15 at bats in the postseason. His offensive output would be limited. But, his leadership would be there and the Phillies could benefit from that, even if he hits .234 again.