Phils, Utley Working On Extension

The Phillies don't have to negotiate at all with Chase Utley, since he doesn't have enough service time to qualify for arbitration, let alone free agency. However, the Phillies are interested in seeing if they can get a multi-year deal signed with Utley before the season starts.

Chase Utley figures to be a fixture in the Phillies infield for some time to come. He's not eligible for arbitration until after the 2006 season and won't see free agency until after the 2009 season. Still, the Phillies would like to avoid all of that potential ugliness and get him signed to a multi-year deal now.

With Utley's contract situation, the team could simply give him a modest raise over his $345,000 salary from 2005 and be done with it. Instead, they're looking at a deal that would take him at least through the 2009 season and potentially, beyond. The problem will be gauging how much Utley will be worth that far down the road and whether or not Utley wants to give up his bargaining position for those seasons.

Both sides have placed a weak deadline of the end of the month to get a deal done for the upcoming season. If a new contract isn't in place by then, the Phillies will likely impose a salary on Utley for 2006 and the two sides could continue to talk about an extension that would carry past the 2006 season. Neither side has said that they wouldn't continue negotiations past opening day to get a deal done.

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