Though some have wondered whether or not Chase Utley will return for a 14th Major League season, Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe of the Wasserman Media Group, tells the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that Utley is “one hundred percent” returning for the 2016 season.
The Dodgers hold a $15MM club option on Utley that is, as Sherman points out, an easy option to decline. The 37-year-old Utley batted just .212/.286/.343 between the Phillies and Dodgers this season — Philadelphia traded him to L.A. in exchange for Darnell Sweeney and John Richy in August — and an ankle injury kept him from reaching the 500 plate appearances necessary for that $15MM option to automatically vest.
Utley’s season could begin with a two-game suspension, though, after a controversial slide in the NLDS took out Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada and fractured his right fibula. MLB ruled that Utley would be suspended for the next two games of the Division Series, but his camp appealed the suspension. Players are typically allotted up to two weeks to assemble their case when appealing a suspension, Sherman notes, and as such the hearing was delayed until next season so as not to overshadow the remainder of the playoffs or the offseason.
Utley’s disappointing 2015 campaign marked the first full season of his career in which he failed to reach double-digit home runs (he hit eight) and also represented the first time since 2004 that his adjusted OPS fell shy of the league average. He’ll face a limited market as he looks for a new team in free agency, though his track record should earn him an incentive-based big league deal for a team with needs at second base. The Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Angels (who had interest in him this summer) and Padres all make some degree of sense as highly speculative fits for the Phillies icon.