Free-agent Chase Utley, Dodgers “continue to have conversations”

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Chase utley

Will Chase Utley return to the Dodgers in 2018? (Kevin Durso/SportsTalkPhilly)

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Philadelphia Phillies icon Chase Utley led the Los Angeles Dodgers' pregame speech prior to Game 7 of the World Series, a game they would eventually lose. Utley, now 39, didn't record a hit in 15 postseason at-bats, but for anyone that thought 2017 might be the end of Utley as a player, it doesn't appear that things are trending that way. 

According to Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, via Bill Blunket of The Orange County Register, the Dodgers and Utley's agent, Joel Wolfe, continue to discuss a potential reunion. Perhaps even more noteworthy is this nugget: Utley, who is a free-agent, has worked out at Dodger Stadium this offseason: 

Zaidi said the Dodgers continue to “have conversations” with unsigned free agent Chase Utley who has worked out at Dodger Stadium this winter.

If there wasn't some sense that the two sides would eventually reach an agreement, it would seem strange that Utley would work out at the team's facilities. It would be even more strange for the team's general manager to publicly announce that Utley has been in the building and that the team remains in contact with his agent if there wasn't serious mutual interest between the two sides. 

In his second full season with the Dodgers, Utley slashed .236/.324/.405 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 2017. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference say that Utley was still an above-replacement level player in 2017, despite numbers that would be traditionally underwhelming for the six-time All-Star. The Dodgers probably aren't in a rush to commit to Utley again, especially given the pace of this free-agent market, but when you consider the leadership role that he also has in the team's clubhouse, it would make sense that the team would have interest in bringing him back. Logan Forsythe, whose $8 million option for 2018 was exercised in November, will likely get a bulk of the starts at second base. 

Depending on who you ask, new Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who previously was the Dodgers director of player development, had some level of interest in bringing Utley to Philadelphia with him as his bench coach this offseason. Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP reported in November that the Phillies were considering Utley to be Kapler's right-hand man. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Dec. 1 – when reports began to surface that the Phillies were going to tab Rob Thomson as their bench coach – that Utley wasn't interested in coaching, as he was preparing to play in 2018 instead. It's unclear if Rosenthal was confirming Eskin's report that the Phillies had some degree of interest in Utley as a coach, or simply noting that if they did, the interest wasn't mutual, because Utley wasn't ready to stop playing. Late in December, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki noted that Utley wasn't considered a candidate to be Kapler's bench coach.

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