By Jason Wojciechowski on January 21, 2007 at 5:40 PM
The Phillies just locked up Chase Utley for seven years at about $12 million per year. That's already a boatload of money, but it becomes a noticeably odd deal when you realize that, despite his surge onto the radar screens last year and the year before, he'll have his age-28 season next year. So this deal locks him up until he's 34 at a pretty high price tag (even by today's standards and even, probably, by the standards of 2013).
Sure, a second baseman with an OPS+ the last two years of 130 and 127 is worth a lot of money. But one who put those numbers up at ages 26 and 27 after having pretty much one very good full year in the minors? One who lifted a .219 average against lefties in '05 to a .301 average in '06 (while his average against righties remained constant)? And one who Baseball Prospectus has as a well-below-average defensive second baseman (Rate of 94 last year, and trending downward over his four years in the majors: 110, 109, 98, and then the 94)?
One of the BP mantras is that you have to look at what a player can do, not what he cannot. And clearly the Phillies are looking at Utley and seeing a player who can be a fan favorite and one who can certainly hit. But you have to also be realistic: there's no reason to think that Utley's not just in the midst of a really nice 3-4 year peak, after which he'll fall into the kind of territory where $12 million bucks is a real albatross. It's the length of the contract that's really bothersome. A three- or four-year deal, buying out the arbitration seasons along with maybe one season of free agency seems much less risky for the Phillies.