Is there a Coach Utley in the Dodgers future?

Free agency has officially begun, and teams can now pursue players without restriction. The Dodgers have six players currently on the open market and they will more than likely want some of them back for at least one more campaign. One such free agent is 38-year-old second baseman Chase Utley.

But is it really in the Dodgers best interest to bring back the almost 39-year-old second baseman? The answer in my opinion is no, but there are many factors to consider.

On August 19, 2015, the Dodgers traded minor leaguers John Richy and Darnell Sweeney for cash considerations and Chase Utley. The trade was made with the intent to add a veteran bat with postseason experience and someone who could serve as a mentor to the many young players on the Dodgers roster.

Utley’s then $15 million contract expired at the conclusion of the 2015 season and the Dodgers did not hesitate to bring him back for the 2016 season on a one-year deal worth $7 million. During that season he served as the team’s semi regular second baseman, appearing in a total of 138 games. Over that stretch he slashed a respectable .252 / .319 / .396 / .716 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI’s. His production earned him yet another one-year deal with the Dodgers worth $2 million for the 2017 season, with the understanding that he would share time at second base with veteran second baseman Logan Forsythe, who the Dodgers acquired prior to spring training 2017.

Utley went 0-for 15 during the postseason, yet scored a run. How is that possible, you ask? There is little doubt that when he pinch-hit in game-6 against Astros ace Justin Verlander, he went up there with every intention of getting hit by a pitch, which is exactly what he did and then came around to score. This is the kind of mentoring the young Dodgers could use. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

But with the 2017 season now in the books and Utley once again on the open market for the third time in as many years, the decision to bring him back for yet another season will not be as clear cut as in years past.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear before really getting into whether or not the Dodgers should even consider bringing Utley back – it’s not about the money. The Dodgers should be able to bring Utley back on a contract similar to the $2 million he made in the recently concluded 2017 season. Utley’s declining skills with both the bat and the glove could potentially relegate him to a minor league contract regardless of what team he plays for. No contract will exceed one year and for that reason the Dodgers and practically every other MLB team should be able to afford him.

When talking about Chase Utley the biggest factor to consider is not how he contributes on the field, but what he brings to the table off the field. He is and has always been considered a stand-up player and person. He has also been instrumental in mentoring young Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. The mere fact that the now 23-year-old Seager went on to win the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year title speaks volumes not only about Seager himself, but also about Chase Utley. Seager has often admitted that he learned more from his double play partner than from any other one source. If this isn’t an endorsement to bringing Utley back as a coach, nothing is.

With his playing skills on the decline, Utley’s value to the Dodgers now goes beyond his bat and glove. With his remarkable ability to be a level head on the field and his coach-like abilities that he displayed with Seager, perhaps president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi should consider bringing the seasoned veteran back in a coaching role.

How can  you even teach someone this? That said, if anyone can, it would be ‘The Man’ himself.
(Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA)

One compelling argument for doing so is that he would not cost the Dodgers a valuable roster spot, yet it would allow a great teammate and mentor to remain in the organization for yet another run at a World Series title.

So, if you ask me, the Dodgers have no business bringing back Chase Utley as a player – even in a bench role – but they would be foolish to not at least consider bringing him back in a coaching or player development role. I also believe that no Dodger fan in their right mind would be opposed to this. And with the recent departures of Gabe Kapler (to become the Phillies new manager) and Tim Hyers (to become the Red Sox new hitting coach), there are important roles to be filled within the Dodgers organization … and who better to fill those roles than the guy affectionately known as The Silver Fox?


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4 Responses to “Is there a Coach Utley in the Dodgers future?”

  1. Ron Cervenka says:

    Excellent piece, Jacob!

    When I asked Friedman during Tuesday’s presser if there was any consideration being given to possibly bringing Utley back as a coach, he was quite evasive, suggesting that the veteran 2B may want to keep playing. That being said, I find it hard to believe that at 39 (in December) he will get many offers.

    I would love nothing more than to see Chase remain in the Dodgers organization in some capacity – perhaps even as Gabe Kapler’s replacement as Director of Player Development.

    • SoCalBum says:

      For me, Utley would make a good replacement for Tim Hyer and possibly give him responsibility for infielder defense/alignment to keep him in the dugout/clubhouse. I’m sure he would do a terrific job in player development (my preferred spot for Andre Ethier) but Utley’s influence on the youngsters Seager, Bellinger, Taylor, Toles, etc. is too valuable. Then next step — bench coach, perhaps as soon as 2019.

  2. baseball1439 says:

    I think Utley would best serve the Dodgers as the next Director of Player Development.His baseball knowledge and how he plays the game fits Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi ideas on how they want the young players brought up through the system.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

      The only drawback to this is that he would not be ‘hands on’ in the Dodgers dugout during the games, where he might be best utilized. That said, the mere thought of him getting his hands on guys like DJ Peters, Alex Verdugo, Keibert Ruiz (etc.) is intoxicating.

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