When signs of an emerging crisis arise, it always helps to be prepared.
No one in the Phillies organization is saying they expect Chase Utley to be out until June – and why would they? They’re not about to incite a panic – but, even so, plans need to be made to accommodate the new void at second base for however long Chase is relegated to the dugout.
The contingency plan the Phils are looking at might look a little something like this:
When Jimmy Rollins hit the DL early last season, Eric Bruntlett stepped in to take his spot for a month. Yeah, that wasn’t the smoothest transition in the world, and I doubt many people were bummed to see Jimmy come back and replace him.
No matter the popular sentiment, Bruntlett is certainly a candidate to see some time at second. This guy plays the field everywhere. He may not be the world-class fielder that Utley or Rollins is, but he has the tools to play the field competently. As for the bat, well, he’s got a career OPS+ of 71. Even he is just a platoon/replacement player, numbers like that won’t exactly replace Utley’s career 128 OPS+.
The Phillies recently outrighted Tadahito Iguchi, so as to grant him free agency. He could certainly come back, but he’s expressed interest in playing full time, and I don’t know if a month (maximum) of starting time will be enough to satiate him.
Prospect Jason Donald has shown a ton of promise, and could very well see significant time early on. He’s a shortstop by nature, but played some second and third base in the Arizona Fall League, where he just finished with a nifty plus-.400 batting average. Granted, the AFL is a hitter’s league after all, but it’s nice to see a young guy in the system performing up to snuff. Even so, I doubt he’ll be the first or even second choice to play right now, but he could end up in that spot. It depends on how the Phils choose to approach free agency.
The free agent class of second basemen is pretty paltry, but that actually plays in the Phils’ favor. We’re not looking for a full-time starter, so the Orlando Hudsons and Jeff Kents of the world wouldn’t be courted by us. Nevermind the fact that Hudson is a Type A free agent. Nick Punto’s tires have been kicked, and Pablo Ozuna and Ray Durham seem tolerable options.
Personally, I’d inquire about a trade for Cubs utility man Mark DeRosa, though his stock may be too high.
The free agent list looks something like this (age in parentheses; compliments of MLBTR):
Willie Bloomquist (31)
Craig Counsell (38)
Ray Durham (37)
Damion Easley (39)
Mark Grudzielanek (39) – Type B
Jerry Hairston Jr. (33)
Orlando Hudson (31) – Type A
Tadahito Iguchi (34)
Jeff Kent (41) – Type B
Felipe Lopez (29)
Mark Loretta (37) – Type B
Ramon Martinez (36)
Pablo Ozuna (34)
Nick Punto (31)
Luis Rivas (29)