Beloved former Phillies second baseman Chase Utley professed his desire to play baseball in 2016. His wish was granted Sunday after the Dodgers elected to re-sign the 36-year-old to a one-year, $7 million deal.
Utley, who will turn 37 later this month, is coming off the toughest season of his long 13-year MLB career. In 107 games, Utley posted a slash line of just .212/.286/.343, all career-lows, to go along with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
The final months of Utley’s Phillies career were not his finest. The infielder got off to a sluggishly slow start in April, posting a meager .114 batting average in 70 at-bats. Utley improved in May by hitting .256 with a .330 OBP, but regressed in June when he hit just .138 with an OPS of .427.
However, it was later revealed that Utley had been dealing with a nagging ankle injury which may have inhibited his ability to swing the bat comfortably and resulted in a trip to the disabled list.
Utley would miss the entire month of July due to the injury. But when he returned to the Phillies’ starting lineup in early Aug., he resembled the player that Phillies fans had grown to love.
Over 31 at-bats after being activated from the DL, Utley posted a slash line of .484/.485/.742 with an OPS of 1.227. His production at the plate earned him a chance to compete for a World Series championship with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded for the second baseman in late Aug. in an attempt to bolster their infield for the postseason.
Once in Dodger blue, Utley would cool off as he batted just .205 to wrap up the final month and a half of the season. But a controversial play in the NLDS against the Mets would transform Utley into one of the most talked about players of the 2015 season.
The Dodgers’ decision to bring back Utley is largely in part due to the club’s unwillingness to re-sign second baseman Howie Kendrick to a long-term deal. Also, despite his inconsistencies at the plate, the Dodgers were pleased with Utley’s demeanor and attitude in the clubhouse.
For Utley, the signing keeps him close to his off season home and, perhaps more importantly, gives him another shot to compete for a World Series championship in what could be his final MLB season.