Talks have begun to pick up recently about the Los Angeles possibly re-signing veteran second baseman Chase Utley, as general manager Farhan Zaidi said at FanFest that they organization would love to have him on the roster, in large part for his clubhouse presence.
The Dodgers traded for the long-time Philadelphia Phillies star in August 2015 and re-signed him to one-year contracts each of the past two seasons.
Utley is obviously not the All-Star caliber player he once was, but he still has some left in the tank. He batted .236/.324/.405 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 127 games for the Dodgers last season.
Utley did struggle toward the end of the year and went 0-for-15 in the postseason, which could be part of the reason that he is still unsigned.
While Zaidi made it clear that if the Dodgers do bring him back, it would be more for his leadership than his play on the field, is that worth taking up a spot on the 25-man roster?
In this week’s roundtable, the Dodger Blue staff debates whether or not the Dodgers should re-sign Utley.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
I kind of feel indifferent about bringing back Utley. I don’t think it will make the difference between winning a World Series or not.
Utley is one of the most respected guys in the league though and has been a leader in the Dodgers clubhouse the last few seasons, so if there’s room on the roster then I would love to see him back in Dodger Blue for one more season.
Other than a rough start and a rough end to last season, Utley was actually pretty good in 2017. In 93 games from May 9 until Sept. 16 he slashed .264/.349/.468 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs, which is more than serviceable for a backup second baseman.
I think the issue last year was just that Utley ran out of gas as no one could have expected that he would play 127 games largely due to Logan Forsythe’s struggles against right-handed pitching.
So I think if Forsythe can improve against righties, allowing Utley to get more rest in 2018 then he could still be a productive player on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse is an added bonus.
Matt Borelli (@mcborelli):
The Dodgers should definitely bring back Utley for one more season.
Utley is clearly beloved in the Dodgers organization, and that ‘s been evident throughout the offseason. Despite his free agent status, he was spotted working out at Dodger Stadium with last season’s teammates.
General manager Farhan Zaidi, who usually doesn’t publicly comment on free agents, also didn’t rule out a return for Utley, citing the importance of his leadership in the clubhouse.
Statistically in 2017, Utley had his ups-and-downs. He particularly struggled at the plate in April, but bounced back and provided league average offensive production the rest of the way.
He did go hitless in the postseason for the second consecutive year, but that doesn’t take away his accomplishments from earlier in the regular season.
Should Utley return to the Dodgers, he obviously wouldn’t have to play every day, given the club’s excellent depth. He would likely be utilized in a similar role from last season, where he’d receive an occasional start while being the first player off the bench in a pinch-hit situation against right-handed pitching.
What’s more, re-signing Utley should come at a minimal cost, so he’d hardly have any effect on the Dodgers’ luxury tax situation — Further increasing the likelihood of a potential reunion.
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel):
Look Chase, it’s nothing personal, but my answer is a quick (and emphatic) “NOPE!” (Unless we’re talking about a spot on the coaching staff here).
In all seriousness, the Dodgers’ 40 and 25-man rosters are already a mess and that’s without a low-upside second basemen who is easily replaceable. I recently ranked every guy on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster and if Chase was on the team, he’d probably sit somewhere in the back-half of the 20s. For reference, I had Alex Verdugo ranked No. 25 on that list.
Wouldn’t you rather have Verdugo on the roster with Chris Taylor serving as the backup second baseman? Or what about just slotting Austin Barnes at second when Logan Forsythe needs a break? And if we’re talking about a guy who would strictly be a bat off the bench, why not eat Matt Kemp’s salary and use him in that role (one he’s likely far better at)?
Of course, all of this changes should Logan Forsythe or Yasmani Grandal get traded at some point, but as it stands, this one is an easy ‘no’ for me.
Jared Massey (@JarredJMassey):
The Dodgers should definitely bring Utley back in some capacity. While he may have lost much of his utility as a player, his presence in the clubhouse and in the dugout has greatly impacted the club, especially the younger players.