After Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees and Shohei Ohtani made his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim, the Los Angeles Dodgers largely went into an offseason slumber.
That changed with a salary dump of a trade with the Atlanta Braves, which saw the Dodgers part with Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, in exchange for a familiar face in Matt Kemp, who has two years and roughly $40 million remaining on his contract.
Despite acquiring Kemp, the Dodgers don’t really have an intention of keeping him as they have been shopping him on the trade market. They haven’t found any takers to this point though, which has affected their pursuit of other free agents like Yu Darvish, who recently reportedly agreed to terms with the Chicago Cubs.
Due to Kemp’s contract and the Dodgers desire to remain below the luxury tax, it may also have affected their interest in potentially signing other free agents. One of is which Chase Utley, who has expressed desire in returning for a 16th Major League season.
The Dodgers do have some flexibility as their payroll is around $180 million, which is below the $197 million threshold. It appears some of that money may be going toward Utley, as according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball the two sides are engaged in contract talks:
sources: dodgers are in serious talks with chase utley back. they love his abject professionalism. interesting hall of fame case.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 13, 2018
Additionally, the Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training on Tuesday morning, and Utley’s gear was in his normal locker, further confirming that he will be returning, via Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
Chase Utley is not officially a Dodger, but there are pairs of No. 26 cleats in his locker at Camelback Ranch.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) February 13, 2018
Utley got off to a slow start to the 2017 season, but still put up respectable numbers, hitting .236/.324/.405 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 127 games.
The 39-year-old also struggled in the postseason, going 0-for-15. So if Utley is re-signed, the club may likely limit his workload throughout the course of the season in effort to keep him fresh.
But as general manager Farhan Zaidi recently pointed out, Utley’s presence and leadership is a big reason why the Dodgers’ clubhouse culture is what it is today. So if he is indeed brought back then, that may be the primary reason why.