The Padres, Angels and Dodgers are showing the most interest in second baseman Chase Utley, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Utley has told friends that his preference is to play in his native California, Stark hears, adding that the Los Angeles area native now resides in northern California but still has family in the southern portion of the state.
Some believe that the Padres’ interest could be a precursor to a trade of some kind, Stark writes, as the team has internal second base options in the form of Jedd Gyorko and Jose Pirela. (Additionally, I’d list Cory Spangenberg, Yangervis Solarte and recently acquired Carlos Asuaje in that mix.) Given the depth of options the Padres have at second, the Utley connection is perhaps a bit surprising, but Stark nonetheless characterizes the team’s interest as “strong.”
The Angels, he notes, could look to use Utley both at second base and designated hitter next season depending on matchups. Johnny Giavotella manned second for most of the 2015 season in Anaheim while batting .272/.318/.375 and delivering suspect defense. Of course, Utley himself is coming off a mere .212/.286/.343 batting line between the Phillies and Dodgers. And, at 37 (later this month), it might not be wise to count on plus defense from the veteran, though metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved pegged him as only slightly below average and much preferred his work to that of the younger Giavotella.
Stark writes that the Dodgers could use Utley as a short-term stopgap to prospect Jose Peraza — a former Top 100 prospect with the Braves that debuted with the Dodgers in 2015 but received just 25 plate appearances in the Majors. Peraza has considerable speed, but his combined .293/.316/.378 line between the Triple-A affiliates for L.A. and Atlanta wasn’t as impressive as his work at the lower levels in the minors. Then again, he’s also still just 21 years of age, making him significantly younger than the bulk of his competition in Triple-A.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Dodgers have more interest in Utley than they do in Ben Zobrist, which would seem to mesh with the notion that a short-term bridge to Peraza is the preferred route for the team. An outside addition isn’t necessarily needed at all, thanks to the presence of Enrique Hernandez, although adding Utley in a stopgap capacity would allow the Dodgers to continue leveraging Hernandez’s versatility in somewhat of a super-utility capacity.