Dodgers: Let’s Address the Big Elephant in the Room

Over the past week or so, speculation over who will be sent down has intensified because it has become even harder to decide on who should. There is one player in particular who complicates everything because his numbers would warrant consideration for a demotion, but he will not be touched.

When Chase Utley re-signed with the Dodgers this past offseason, we all knew what they were getting. He was clearly over the hill and would not be able to contribute much with the bat. He hit .252 with a .716 OPS (but a solid 14 home runs) last season, and there was so secret that the then-37-year-old was not going to be able to hold up as a starting second baseman for a team anymore.

Plus, Logan Forsythe was already on the team, so Chase was not going to get much playing time as it was. However, with Logan Forsythe shelved for the past few weeks, Utley has been getting a bulk of the playing time over at second, and he hasn’t responded in an encouraging way. He’s hitting .100 on the season with a .196 OBP.

If the Dodgers did not have too many players to deal with, then having him in the backup role would not have mattered so much because A: He’d be a bench player and B: He has enough pedigree where you’d expect him to snap out of his prolonged slump.

But that’s not the case. When Forsythe returns, the Dodgers’ front office will have to make a tough decision on who to send down to Triple-A. From that group they’ll have to choose from, one of Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor will be most likely to be sent to Oklahoma City.

However, both are deserving to remain with Los Angeles. Kike may have an ugly batting average and on-base percentage, but his power against lefties and defensive versatility have been, are, and will continue to be valuable to the team. He has a .828 OPS against the dreaded southpaws. That is something the Dodgers just can’t give up, especially when he is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife.

Then you have Chris Taylor who seems to have worked some magic over the offseason and is flat out raking. All he’s done is hit since being called up. In his 32 at-bats, he owns a .353/.488/.588 slash line with two home runs and two doubles. He has also improved his approach at the plate, as he willing to work the count and take walks. He had three walks against San Diego Saturday night, and four walks against the Giants on Wednesday.  He’s even come through during his small sample size of clutch moments and like Kike can play multiple positions.

So the conclusion here is, as harsh as it is:

It seems like no one wanted to say it, but it’s the reality. If this were any other team, both Taylor and Hernandez would remain on the major league squad.

It seems like no one wanted to say it, but it’s the reality. If this were any other team, both Taylor and Hernandez would remain on the major league squad.

But this isn’t just any other team, and things will get even more complicated once Adrian Gonzalez returns (looking at you Cody Bellinger and Andrew Toles). Utley was brought back because of his experience, leadership, and team chemistry. In short, because he’s an excellent clubhouse presence. The franchise’s best players, Corey Seager and Clayton Kershaw admire the guy, and it’s hard not to see why.

Utley is the ultimate professional, is highly respected, and plays the game the right way. I’m not against flair. In fact, I’m in support of being able to bat flip and show emotion and am anti-Gosse Gossage. However, at the same time, it’s admirable to see a guy of Chase Utley’s caliber play with such professionalism, hustle, and grace.

This is what makes the decision so tough. It seems that having a player in the clubhouse who’s primarily there for his positive presence has become somewhat of a lost art. This is why I am surprised that Utley is still on the team because we all know the front office loves numbers, sabermetrics, etc.  Remember, they traded away team-favorite A.J. Ellis last season.

Thus it’s refreshing for them to step back from analytics and look at the human approach to the game. But again that complicates everything.

How much should you value a great clubhouse presence over talent and production? Is it overrated or underrated? The Dodgers seem to have great team chemistry right now, and Chase Utley is a large reason why. Is his presence more important than the guys who are producing? Do you risk angering your star players and disrupting the mood of the team by taking Utley off the 25-man squad?

I believe things will work out themselves. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that based off of production, Utley is wasting a roster spot and should not be chosen over Taylor or Hernandez. But it’s not that easy, is it?