It’s no surprise Chase Utley, a player in the twilight of his career, would prefer to play what might be his final season closer to his hometown. And if he comes back to the Dodgers, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Reports are that Utley is most interested in playing for the Angels, Dodgers or Padres in 2016. All three could use him, and his best fit might be LA.
There hasn’t been much chatter on the Howie Kendrick front. It’s a little surprising since he had a solid 2015 and could help any lineup. However, I’m not surprised the Dodgers haven’t shown a ton of interest. They have internal options already in Enrique Hernandez and Jose Peraza. If the Dodgers’ second base contingent were made up of predominantly those two for 2016, I would be just fine with that. Bringing Utley back could make for a much stronger platoon. Also, I’m betting Andrew Friedman and Co., are placing a high value on that supplemental draft pick Kendrick would bring back if (when) he signs elsewhere.
If Ultey were re-signed, you could have a 3-man situation with Utley drawing starts against most righties and Hernandez and Peraza splitting time against lefties. This is assuming Hernandez would spell Joc Pederson in center field sometimes (but not all the time) in center field. There isn’t much of a sample on Peraza in the majors against lefties, but he hit .343/.349/.462 against southpaws in the minors last season and .380/.410/.472 the year before. Hernanez, unfortunately, still has trouble with right-handers who can spin a decent slider, which makes him less appealing as an everyday player.
Utley’s 34 games with the Dodgers left a lot to be desired. He had just an 84 wRC+ and .291 on-base percentage. He was still able to post a 0.5 WAR because he played good defense, but he has always been known as a bat-first player. If he is in a true platoon role, he might be a more productive player (ala Andre Ethier). He had 25 of his 31 extra base hits against right-handers and struck out about 4 percent less against righties than lefties. Take into account he played most of the season with an ankle injury he sustained in January. Once he returned from a DL stint, he hit well (148 wRC+ in August). He still has a little left in the tank, and that little bit could be reached if he’s used correctly.
His dirty “slide” in the playoffs notwithstanding, having a left-handed option there (and off the bench in general) wouldn’t be a bad thing. The Dodgers might not be totally comfortable going with just Hernandez and Peraza at second base. The free agent options outside of Kendrick and Ben Zobrist aren’t appealing and teams aren’t lining up to trade cost-controlled, good second baseman (i.e. Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, etc.). He’d also be much cheaper than re-signing Kendrick or signing Zobrist, who, at potential $60-plus million over four years isn’t terribly appealing. And if Utley isn’t productive, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to eat money to free up roster spots. I don’t think it’ll come to that, but if it does, the front office won’t hesitate to jettison him.
Going with a platoon at second base might be the best option for 2016. Some fans probably don’t want to hear that because platoon has a negative connotation to them (for some reason), but an Utley-Hernandez-Peraza trio at second base could work out really well. If nothing else, the defense should be pretty good.