An All-Star in 2014, Chase Utley looked to be an appealing trade chip for the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies entering the 2015 season. Unfortunately for both parties, he suffered a freak injury in January by spraining his ankle after stepping on a baseball during a private workout and didn’t appear in a Spring Training game until the middle of March.
To no surprise, Utley played through the pain but understandably wasn’t at his healthiest — and the results showed. He mustered up a stunningly poor .114/.198/.200 batting line in 81 plate appearances with an even poorer .102 BABIP (around 200 points below league average) during the first month of last season.
His season stats only marginally improved by late-June and he was eventually placed on the disabled list with lingering ankle issues. With the mix of injury and bad luck, Utley’s trade value was virtually nonexistent, which led to him remaining with the Phillies after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
By the beginning of August, Utley was activated and immediately inserted into the starting lineup with hopes that he could recoup some of his trade value. In his first eight games back, he slashed a stellar .484/.485/.742, which indicated that his ankle healed and BABIP was regressing to the mean.
Needing a stopgap at the time while Howie Kendrick recovered from a tricky hamstring injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers swung a trade to acquire the Pasadena, Calif. native on Aug. 19 for nothing more but Minor League depth and cash.
Utley made his debut on Aug. 21 as the designated hitter, going 0-for-4 as the Dodgers were no-hit by Houston Astros righty Mike Fiers.
Overall, Utley slashed a rather weak .202/.291/.363 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 34 regular-season games, though he was worth 0.9 bWAR because of exceptional defense at multiple positions including second base, third base and first base.
It wouldn’t be until Game 2 of the National League Division Series when Utley had his defining moment as a Dodger. After hitting a one-out single in the seventh, he broke up a potential inning-ending double play with a takeout slide to the New York Mets’ Ruben Tejada that unfortunately resulted in a fractured right fibula for the shortstop.
Two batters later, Utley scored the tying run on a double by Adrian Gonzalez, propelling the Dodgers to a win and shifting momentum in the series — at least for the time being.
On Sept. 23 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Utley led off the bottom of the first with a home run and later drove in Jimmy Rollins with a go-ahead RBI-double in the eighth inning, cementing a win for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers declined Utley’s team option worth somewhere between $5 million and $11 million, making him a free agent. However, that didn’t mark the end of his tenure in Los Angeles as the 37 year old re-signed on a one-year, $7 million contract.
Given he’s no longer an everyday player, Utley figures to again play some sort of utility role for the Dodgers in 2016. Versatility appears to be the name of the game for Dodgers infielders, which make’s Utley’s ability to play first base, second and third, all the more valuable.