The Los Angeles Dodgers addressed their need for a second baseman and right-handed hitter in one fell swoop on Monday, trading Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forsythe. The 30-year-old reunites with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who acquired Forsythe when he led the Rays front office.
Second base quickly became a position of great need, as Chase Utley reached free agency and Howie Kendrick was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last November. As the Dodgers combed the market for an external solution, re-signing Utley — albeit presumably to fill a lesser role — was never ruled out as a possibility.
Although Forsythe was acquired, Friedman explained re-signing Utley remains plausible and that the club likely would have already done so, if not for a lineup that’s heavy on left-handed hitters, per Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“You never say never with a guy like Chase, just because of the type of guy he is, and the impact that he has,” Friedman said. “But it’s one of those things where we probably would have re-signed Chase months ago if our lineup was more balanced.”
Admiration for Utley is prevalent throughout the Dodgers organization. He was voted the Dodgers’ recipient for the Heart and Hustle Award last season, which the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) presents to one player on each team who “best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball,” and also performs well on the field.
Manager Dave Roberts recently called the veteran infielder his “favorite player of all time,” and Friedman and Roberts regularly praised Utley for his leadership in the clubhouse and mentorship provided to eventual National League Rookie of the Year Corey Seager.
As for on-the-field matters, Utley not only manned second base on a regular basis, but he also emerged as the Dodgers’ primary leadoff hitter. It was a role he successfully filled through the early stages of the season before production curtailed as the year wore on.
Utley finished the season batting season batting .252/.319/.396 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs, 52 RBI and a 95 OPS+ in 138 games.