By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Cubs appear to be one of a half-dozen teams hoping to trade for veteran Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, who cleared waivers Tuesday, making him eligible to be traded, sources confirmed.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are also among numerous rumored teams said to be in the mix to acquire Utley, who will be a free agent after 2015. He had a vesting option left on his contract that would have kicked in at 500 at-bats this season, but he has only played in 70 games due to injury and won’t reach that threshold. The 36-year-old Utley is still owed close to $5 million on his $15-million contract this season.
The Cubs are an interesting team in the Utley sweepstakes. After moving Addison Russell to shortstop late last week, the second base position has been handled by Chris Coghlan, who’s primarily an outfielder but has been switched to second to allow the bat of rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber to remain in the lineup in left field. Recently demoted Starlin Castro will play second base this weekend when the Cubs face two White Sox left-handed starting pitchers.
Utley is a 10-and-5 man. Any major league player can invoke a no-trade on any proposed deal if he has 10 years in MLB and five or more consecutive seasons with his current team.
Utley has balked at being traded at least twice when asked to by the Phillies in recent years, sources said.
The former All-Star has 13 years in the big leagues and is a .282 lifetime hitter. He’s hitting .196 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 267 at-bats this year. Since coming off the DL, Utley has a five-game hitting streak.
The Cubs are looking to upgrade the offense for their first pennant run in seven years. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein was asked if any deals where possible for his club right now.
“I don’t know,” Epstein replied Wednesday to the question about an August deal. “Sometimes you get things done right at the end of the month. Maybe you get a dedicated pinch-runner or something like that. You could add some veteran presence. There is nothing we are really close to.”
Additions such as Javier Baez from the minor leagues or rehabbing second baseman Tommy LaStella could be the answer at second. They could be an option if a deal isn’t consummated before rosters are frozen for the postseason on Sept. 1.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.