Chase Utley Is Still an Elite Defender
If you look only at the recent trend in Defensive Runs Saved totals for Chase Utley, then it looks like he has really declined in skill, defensively. After a prime that saw him save an estimated 115 runs between 2005 and 2010, Utley has just 20 Runs Saved in the three seasons since. However, that decline is more a decline in health than it is in production.
From 2005 to 2010, Utley saved an estimated 15 runs at second base per 1,000 innings played. Among players with at least 1,000 innings at the position, only Craig Counsell and Ben Zobrist had higher. Meanwhile, from 2011 to 2013, Utley has saved 9 runs per 1,000 innings at second base, the eighth-highest total at the position. Over a full season at his recent level of production, Utley would still be among the best second basemen in the game.
Of course, just because Utley’s limitation is health rather than skill does not erase the risk a team would have in trading for him. However, for a team like the Athletics that has chosen to sacrifice defense up the middle for the offensive production of Jed Lowrie, Utley would make a lot of sense. The real question is whether the Phillies are willing to admit that they are out of the race this season and that Utley may not be the best candidate for a contract extension, despite everything he’s done for the Phillies in his career.