In the worst kept secret, it seems the Dodgers are bringing Chase Utley back for the 2018 season.
Word broke yesterday that the Dodgers were in “serious” talks with Utley, and Jon Heyman (who broke that) confirmed it on the day pitchers and catchers are reporting.
sources: dodgers are indeed bringing back chase utley. great for clubhouse, team
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 13, 2018
I’d expect it to be official as soon as tomorrow, as it’s the first day players can be added to the 60-day disabled list (Julio Urias), thus freeing up a 40-man roster spot. They’re currently at 39 players, but I’m sure that number will be 40 by the time Spring Training ends. I’m not sure the Dodgers would want to have to designate someone for assignment — Dylan Baker, Henry Owens, Tim Locastro, Trayce Thompson (who is out of options). Owens is the best candidate, but since Urias won’t be back until July or August, putting him on the 60-day is an inevitability.
Look, we all would have just preferred Utley to come back as a coach or even as a player-coach, but the fact is, Utley doesn’t feel like he’s ready to hang up his cleats yet. No matter what we think of his ability going into his age-39 season, Utley is a great clubhouse presence and no one has ever said a bad word about him in that regard — in Philadelphia or Los Angeles.
Things looked bleak on the field in the first month of the season when he wouldn’t stop taking strikes, but he turned things around for a short time and, despite his struggles, he still posted a .236/.324/.405 triple slash with a 96 wRC+, .168 ISO (.146 was league-average for second baseman last season) and a 1.3 WAR in 353 plate appearances.
Utley should be the primary left-handed hitting infielder off the bench for the Dodgers — at least early in the season. Jake Peter‘s time to shine is going to be delayed slightly, but perhaps he can learn a thing or 20 from the Dodgers’ Baseball Dad.
Terms of the Dodger-Utley reunion aren’t yet known, but it was pretty clear he controlled his destiny — where he wanted to play, if he indeed wanted to play. It’ll be a minimal amount, and probably worth every cent because of what he means to the clubhouse. The Phillies expressed interest in him, but in a coaching capacity. The Clevelands were also looking at him as a bench piece. The only other team that even had a chance would have been the Angels, but the interest wasn’t mutual. Instead, he’s returning to Los Angeles.
A real-life free-agent signing. I kinda forgot what those felt like.