The rich seemingly got richer late Friday evening as the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly agreed to terms with Chase Utley on a one-year contract. Prior to news surfacing of Utley’s expected re-signing, the Dodgers were also said to have inked former Seattle Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
Although Los Angeles didn’t necessarily make Utley a priority this offseason, a potential reunion was never ruled out. Even after trading for Logan Forsythe to address their need at second base, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged the club still had interest in Utley.
During that January conference call, Friedman went so far as to say it wasn’t beyond reason to believe the club would have already re-signed Utley if their roster wasn’t heavy on left-handed hitters.
As it stands, the 14-year veteran figures to be part of a deep bench. Although Utley is expected to fill a lesser role this season than he did in 2016, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts intends to provide Utley with ample playing time, according to Bill Plunkett of the O.C. Register:
“I’m going to make sure Chase gets his at-bats,” Roberts said. “It’s going to work itself out. But the big thing is Chase wanted to be here and be part of what we’ve got going on.”
When the Dodgers re-signed Utley in December 2015 to a one-year deal, it was under the expectation he would spell Howie Kendrick at second base, and potentially Justin Turner at third. However, Kendrick’s calf injury during Spring Training led to his unseating at second base.
Utley batted .252/.319/.396 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs, 52 RBI and a 95 OPS+ while appearing in 138 games last season and serving as the Dodgers’ primary leadoff hitter. It was his most games played in a single season since 2014.
Although Utley’s production dipped as the season wore on, his clubhouse presence and leadership are qualities multiple members of the Dodgers organization, including Corey Seager, have championed.
In agreeing to re-sign with the Dodgers, Utley reportedly rejected a more lucrative offer. However, Gutierrez’s, Utley’s nor Sergio Romo’s reported contracts have been made official as of Sunday morning.
Los Angeles must make three corresponding moves to create room on their 40-man roster for the trio of signings.