Posted on February 11, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers have put the finishing touches on a roster they hope will be able to deliver a fifth consecutive NL West title in 2017, and perhaps a little more. Late night Friday, the Dodgers reportedly agreed to re-sign second baseman Chase Utley and sign outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. The financial terms of Utley’s return are not known at this time. Meanwhile, Gutierrez will make a base salary $2.6 million on a one-year deal, with another $400,000 in possible incentives.
Utley has waited a long time to sign with a team this offseason, and a reunion with the Dodgers appeared unlikely after Los Angeles acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays last month. Nevertheless, Utley has agreed to return to the Dodgers, even though he’s unlikely to be an everyday player. Utley had reportedly narrowed down his search to four teams and was said to be valuing signing with a contender above anything else.
Forsythe had no discernible splits between righties and lefties last season, and so a platoon with the 38-year old Utley seems unlikely. Instead, Utley figures to have a bench role on the Dodgers this season. He will likely serve as a backup for Forsythe at second base and Justin Turner at third base. Perhaps more importantly, he will provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse. Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager, the National League’s reigning Rookie of the Year, credited Utley with being his mentor last season and was vocal about the Dodgers re-signing him this winter.
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With Utley seemingly assured of a roster spot, it’s likely to create a competition in spring training between Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor for the other backup infielder on the roster. Recently signed Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez could also factor into that competition, as the Dodgers will need one of them to serve as Seager’s backup at shortstop.
The signing of Gutierrez, meanwhile, gives the Dodgers a right-handed bat coming off the bench and another option in the outfield. Gutierrez has spent the last eight seasons with the Seattle Mariners, including the 2014 season, which he missed entirely for health reasons. He has become a part-time player at this stage in his career, but he’s put together productive seasons the last two years after sitting out 2014. Gutierrez is mostly a corner outfielder at this point in his career, but he could conceivably backup Joc Pederson in center field if the Dodgers need him to.
Outside of Yasiel Puig in right field, the Dodgers have a left-hand heavy outfield with Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Andre Ethier. Adding the right-hand hitting Gutierrez appears to be a sign that the Dodgers aren’t enamored with the host of right-hand hitting outfielders already on their roster, including Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke, Darin Ruf, and Brett Eibner. Those players may have their work cut out for them during spring training now that Gutierrez appears to be in line for a bench role.
The additions of Utley and Gutierrez represent a desire by the Dodgers to fill out their bench with known commodities rather than let fringe players battle during spring training for bench roles. They are somewhat surprising moves by the Dodgers considering how much money the team spent to re-sign Turner, Rich Hill, and Kenley Jansen this offseason. Nevertheless, they represent a commitment by the team to remain on top of the NL West and reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.