Some might argue that Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw or Justin Turner are the Dodgers' leader in the clubhouse. Given this recent signing, Chase Utley clearly is that person. Per Peter Gammons on his blog:
It was clearly peer driven, respect from teammates, young and old, that even with the acquisition of Logan Forsythe—which was universally applauded by the Dodger players—the players lobbied Friedman and Zaidi for the return of Utley and his impact on what at times seemed to be a disjointed culture. And the powers that be listened, especially since Utley made it clear that the Dodgers were the team for whom he wanted to play.As you likely know, the Dodgers and Utley have agreed on a new on-year contract. Per LA Times reporter Andy McCullough on twitter:
Zaidi and Friedman stayed in constant contact with Utley because, they too, hold the 38 year old in the highest personal and professional esteem. They heard from Corey Seager. They heard from Justin Turner. From Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. They heard from Dave Roberts and all his coaches; Tim Hyers told one of his former Red Sox co-workers “Utley is the most unbelievable guy I’ve ever met in baseball.”
This has yet to be confirmed by the team, and early reports indicate that Chase is receiving $2 million plus incentives to play. In other words, Chase Utley is taking a big discount to play for his hometown club. As context, Utley made $7 million last season. Furthermore, he is the fourth player this year to have taken less to be in Blue - the others being Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo. Per Daniel Brim at Dodgers Digest:Chase Utley is coming back to the Dodgers on a one-year deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) February 11, 2017
Utley played regularly last season, and on the full-season balance he did pretty well, hitting .252/.319/.396 (97 wRC+) in 565 plate appearances. He put up exactly 2 fWAR, which probably overrated his defense, but he had a very respectable season as a whole. However, Utley’s production faded quite badly as the year wore on. From June 1st onward, he hit just .236/.292/.381 (83 wRC+). For most players, it would be best to look at the full season performance as being the most indicative number going forward. However, Utley just turned 38, and it’s fair to wonder if his age caught up to him by the end of the season.With the recent trade to get second baseman Logan Forsythe it is anticipated that Chase will only have a part-time role with the club, and that should bode well for him. As Brim explained, Utley's advancing age probably had much to do with his declining performance last season. Allowing him to sit more often should lead to better and more consistent results throughout a full season.
In celebration of Utley's pending re-signing with to the Dodgers I made the above two fantasy Baseball card of him. On the left I used the 1952 Topps Baseball card design and a photo originally taken by Dodger photographer Jon SooHoo last season, and the card on the right uses the 1957 Topps Baseball card design and uses a photo taken originally by Tom Mihalek/AP at the OC Register.
Below are his career statistics, via Baseball-Reference:
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