Are the Phillies nearing a contract extension with Chase Utley? The hunch here is that they might be. Something seems to be brewing. Again it’s just a hunch but we thought we’d share it anyway. The Phillies are always super quiet when it comes to contract matters -- sometimes they even fib -- and Utley is intensely private. So this hunch is based on observations conversations and signs. To wit: • A person with knowledge of the situation says the Phillies have had recent talks with Utley’s representation about a contract extension. • Word in well-placed baseball circles is that the Phillies are not listening to trade offers for Utley. • The decision to broaden second-base prospect Cesar Hernandez’ utility skills by having him play some outfield shouldn’t be underestimated especially upon further review of the comment that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made to on Sunday. “If we’re fortunate enough to keep Chase in our uniform which we hope to do Cesar becomes a utility piece” Amaro said Sunday. • In the same conversation Amaro was asked point blank if he’d begun to speak with Utley’s representation about an extension. “We wouldn’t discuss it even if we did” he said. He didn’t say no. Amaro isn’t always forthcoming when it comes to matters of negotiations but he has a way of shooting down the ridiculous. He didn’t shoot this one down. There are other signs: • Wednesday on the team’s official Website an advertisement promoting next week’s three-game series against the Giants featured a picture of Utley. Two of those games come after the trade deadline. Would the Phils use a player they were planning to trade to promote a series that comes up right after the trade deadline? Doubtful. And don’t think the trade deadline is not significant. Utley can be a free agent at the end of the season. The best way to get value for him would be to deal him before waivers would be needed between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21. Utley gains full no-trade rights on Aug. 22 when he reaches 10 years in the majors and five with the same club. It is difficult to imagine the Phillies would risk having Utley walk and get nothing for him. If they’re not trading him they’re probably committed to extending him.