In need of some insurance last season with Howie Kendrick on disabled list due to a hamstring strain, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired veteran second baseman and six-time All-star Chase Utley from the Philadelphia Phillies.
After coming to the Dodgers, Utley slashed a rather pedestrian .202/.291/.363 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 34 regular-season games. He did, however, post a 0.9 bWAR aided by his ability to play a steady second base, as well as fill in at first and third base.
Overall in 2015, Utley batted a combined .212/.286/.343 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in 107 games played.
Although it appeared as though his tenure in Los Angeles would come to end after the season, Utley, now 37 years old, re-signed with the Dodgers on a one-year, $7 million contract.
At the time of signing, it appeared Utley was set to platoon at second base with Kiké Hernandez. That of course changed once Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers.
Utley faces a two-game suspension for his hard slide that broke New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The incident fueled a widespread perception of Utley being one of baseball’s dirty players.
Teammate A.J. Ellis touched on Utley’s hard-nosed approach and joked about his own change of feelings toward the veteran infielder, via Andy McCullough of the LA Times, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is happy to have Utley on his team because of how he plays:
“He plays emotionless,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Cold and calculating. I think he knows he has that persona. He embraces that. That’s why he’s respected, but not liked, by a lot of teams.” … I went from being scared to death of him,” Ellis said, “to loving being his teammate.”
Third baseman Justin Turner agreed, and believes Utley’s style of play has a positive effect on the clubhouse:
“When you see Chase out there, and he’s all business, playing hard, you’re like, ‘OK, maybe we should cut a little bit of this [stuff] out,'” Turner said. “He’s done everything the right away for a long time. It rubs off on guys.”
Utley appealed the two-game suspension and remained eligible to play throughout the NLDS. With the Dodgers trailing, 3-2, in the ninth inning of Game 5, Utley pinch-hit for Joc Pederson and lined out.
Utley’s appeal hearing is expected to take place at some point during Spring Training. On Thursday, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced new slide rules and pace-of-game initiatives that will take effect during the 2016 season.