Dodgers Need to Bring These Two Vets Back Home in 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Chase Utley
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Chase Utley /

The Dodgers need to make two key additions to their bench for 2018 in my opinion. One hit .236 with eight homers in 127 games last season and just turned 39. The other played in only 38 games over the past two seasons, hit .235 with two homers last year, and will turn 36 just after opening day.

Of course, I am talking about veteran infielder Chase Utley and veteran outfielder Andre Ethier.  Despite their paltry numbers in 2017, these two players have served as leaders in the Dodgers’ clubhouse for the past few seasons, and their contributions cannot be valued through statistics alone. The Dodgers bench was a team strength in 2017 and was responsible in large part for the successful pennant-winning season.  Dave Roberts successfully managed the collection of young players and veterans on his bench and leveraged the flexibility these players offered to give his everyday players a breather, and optimize matchups.  Utley and Ethier are limited in the positional flexibility department, however, they make up for their lack of defensive versatility with their experienced left-handed bats and savvy leadership.

Utley has enjoyed a phenomenal career dating back to 2003. A six-time All-Star and World Series champion, he’s closing in on 2000 hits and would be in the Hall of Fame conversation had he stayed healthy in his mid-thirties.  Utley can play third in a pinch but is more suited at this point in his career to play second and backup at first when needed.  Utley can still bring it with the glove, as he made several highlight reel plays this year.  His left-handed bat is still reliable enough to serve up a pinch-hit home run to decide the game or should the situation dictate, hit the ball to the other side of the infield to move a runner over.  It’s this unselfish, team first attitude that endears Utley to his teammates.  Utley’s leadership and ability to teach his young teammates the right way to play the game makes him an invaluable asset to any team.

Ethier came over from the Oakland A’s in a minor league trade during the 2005-2006 offseason. He made his MLB debut in 2006 and solidified himself in the Dodger record books.  Ethier endeared himself to Dodger fans early in his career, as he was dubbed “Captain Clutch” due to his ability to come up with the game-winning hit in tight situations.  He is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glover, who was (is?) the longest tenured Dodger on the current team.  During the past two springs, Ethier appeared to flash some of the hitting lethality that he showed earlier in his career and even sparked Dave Roberts to name him the leadoff man entering the 2016 campaign.

Unfortunately, a freak injury that spring caused Ethier to miss most of that season.  Poised for a comeback this past season, Ethier again saw his hopes to make an impact this diminish, as another freakish spring injury once again led him to miss most of the year.  Ethier did prove in each of these seasons that he could be a valuable veteran to have off the bench as he played through both stretch runs and postseasons in 2016 and 2017. Like Utley, Ethier brings leadership and mentorship to the clubhouse, something the young Dodgers need to continue their maturation in order to assimilate to the big league life.

More from LA Dodgers News

As far as the Dodgers supposed glut of outfielders goes, I think there is still a place for Ethier.  First, we have to assume Matt Kemp will have either been traded or released by the time Opening Day rolls around.  If Pederson is penciled in left, Chris Taylor in center, and Yasiel Puig in right, that leaves Kike Hernandez as the primary utilityman.  Let’s also assume Alex Verdugo, a very young 21 years old, is headed back to AAA for just a little more seasoning.  Andrew Toles is still rehabbing from a severe knee injury and will need some time at AAA to get his baseball legs back under him.  Finally, Trayce Thompson is out of options, and barring some other injury, will be designated for assignment or traded.  Consequently, there is room for Ethier and his veteran leadership on the roster to be the primary fourth outfielder, as Kike is the Dodgers’ jack-of-all-trades, and could be playing anywhere on the field on any given day.

Chase Utley and Andre Ethier played key roles on the National League Pennant winning team that was one win away from winning it all.  I argue losing these two players will be a detriment to the organization, for both 2018 and beyond.  Utley would likely sign a one year contract for about $4 mil, while Ethier might be able to be had for $3 mil.  As of now, the Dodger bench is comprised of whoever ends up the backup backstop, Kike Hernandez, and really that’s it.

Next: Dodgers' Brass Can Do No Wrong This Offseason

The Dodgers bench is in need of players to provide left-handed power off the bench and veteran leadership. The $7 mil expenditure to bring Chase Utley and Andre Ethier back is a small price to pay to assemble championship caliber players who can contribute to the Dodgers’ 2018 championship quest.