Sports Outside the Beltway

Utley agrees to seven-year, $85M extension

Chase Utley might be the best second baseman in the National League. Now, the Phillies are paying him as such.

Utley and the Phillies agreed to a seven-year, $85 million extension Sunday, avoiding salary arbitration. The extension covers the final three arbitration seasons for Utley and his first four seasons of free agency. The deal is contingent on Utley passing a physical.

Utley gets a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $4.5 million this year, $7.5 million in 2008, $11 million in 2009 and $15 million in each of the final seasons.

“We view Chase as not only a great second baseman but also one of the top 10-15 players in the game,” Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “He’s a hard-nosed, full-throttle player who exemplifies the spirit of Philadelphia. He is tailor-made for this city and we couldn’t be happier to lock him up for years to come.”

Utley, who made $500,000 in 2006, hit .309 last season with 40 doubles, 32 home runs, 102 RBIs and 131 runs. He also had a 35-game hitting streak that tied for the 10th-longest in major league history and longest by a second baseman.

Utley also became the 15th player in major league history — and second Phillie — to hit .300, and record 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 40 doubles and 130 runs in one season. He and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (1930 and 1932) are the only Phillies to accomplish the feat.

Over the past two seasons, Utley leads all major league second basemen in home runs (57), RBIs (197), hits (350) and runs (217). He was Philadelphia’s first-round pick in the 2000 draft.

Arn Tellem, Utley’s agent, believed the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols was the only other player who got a seven-year contract after just three years of major league service. Pujols and St. Louis agreed to a $100 million, seven-year contract that began in 2004.

“When the Phillies came to us with a multiyear deal of this length and magnitude, it made it very easy for Chase to accept, given that he loves Philadelphia, wanted to stay in Philadelphia and is hoping to retire in Philadelphia,” Tellem said. “He is excited about the team’s prospects and nucleus and feels they can be competitive for the term of this contract and beyond, He was very appreciative of the security this early in his career, and he was willing to give the Phillies a break in the free-agent years.”

Information from The Associated Press and was used in this report.

This is a great move by both the Phillies and Chase Utley. This allows the Phillies to build a core group areound Utley and Ryan Howard. The deal is also heavily backloaded. This would allow the Phillies to get maximum value for their signing if they feel the need to trade him at the end of his contract. Even if they don’t trade him this deal is slightly below today’s market value given the offensive output by Utley.

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