Utley reportedly back with Dodgers, looks to build on potential Hall of Fame career
Utley, 39, will return for another season
The Los Angeles Dodgers bench will feature a familiar face in 2018.
Utley, 39, has posted an identical 92 OPS+ in each of the last two seasons. He has seen his role reduced, however, as he managed 353 plate appearances over 127 games in 2017 -- a ratio illustrating how the Dodgers have greatly limited his exposure to left-handed pitchers, to the extent that he faced righties in 92 percent of his trips to the dish.
Utley's return is notable for two reasons. Foremost, it allows him more time to build upon his eventual Hall of Fame case. Advanced metrics deem Utley as worthy or close to it already. His 65 career Wins Above Replacement are four shy of the average enshrined second baseman, while his seven-year peak is actually better than those lionized keystoners. Alas, Utley's more traditional case could use a few more round numbers -- otherwise, he appears unlikely to ever earn the nod. He's 150 hits short of 2,000 for his career, which would seem to require a stint in 2019, too.
Odds are, then, Utley is going to fall short -- of 2,000 hits and Cooperstown.
The other, more timely reason Utley rejoining the Dodgers is worth more than a shrug is because it marks just the second time this winter Los Angeles has signed a free agent. Previously, Tom Koehler had represented their biggest (and only) addition via the open market. The Dodgers were known to have interest in free-agent starter Yu Darvish. It's not clear whether they intend to pursue someone like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn.
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