GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Veteran free agent infielder Chase Utley officially returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, agreeing to a one-year, $2-million contract.
Utley said he had received two other offers but decided on the Dodgers because of the club’s chemistry.
“I like the guys here,” said Utley, who batted .252 over 138 games for the Dodgers last season.
He also likes their chances at winning the World Series.
“Ultimately, the goal for any of us in this clubhouse is to win the championship,” said Utley, who appeared in 34 games for the Dodgers in 2015 after they acquired him on Aug. 19 in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. “I feel like we have the pieces to do that here. Obviously, we have to continue to improve and want to improve.”
There were some questions about whether Utley would be back with the Dodgers, especially after they acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe from Tampa Bay on Jan. 23 in a trade for pitcher Jose De Leon.
“Any time you’re a free agent — this is my second go-round — there’s always a little uncertainty about where you might land,” Utley said. “You try not to look too far ahead. I had a great time last year with these guys last year. Overall, I think last year was a fairly successful season. To place odds on it, I’d guess you’d have to say 50-50.”
Utley, 38, said the Dodgers stayed in touch with him during the offseason.
They value his experience and leadership. They also like his toughness and poise.
“He’s at the top of the list as far as eliminating noise,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who at a baseball dinner in January called Utley his favorite all-time player. “In baseball there is so much failure and deviation in routines and schedules with weather, travel, playing or not playing.
“Chase is very consistent, as consistent as I’ve ever seen with his mindset, and that has a way of filtering throughout the clubhouse.”
Last season, Utley emerged as a mentor to shortstop Corey Seager, the NL Rookie of the Year. This spring, Utley and Seager have lockers next to each other in the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch clubhouse.
“It’s easy to like a guy like that,” Utley said of the 22-year-old Seager. “He’s obviously a great player. He has a good head on his shoulders. If he wants to pick my brain, I’m all for it. I’m going to pick his brain a little bit, too.”
Utley’s infield versatility looms as a significant factor. Roberts said he even plans to use Utley some at first base. Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman, arrived at camp with inflammation in his right elbow. He is expected to be limited in drills for two weeks.
Roberts said he hopes to rest Gonzalez more this season in an effort have him healthy and ready for the playoffs. When Gonzalez rests, Utley figures to be at first.
“I have a first baseman’s glove,” joked Utley, who has spent most of his career at second base.
What he really wants is a 2017 World Series ring to go with his ring from 2008 with the Phillies.
“It’s no secret that I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I understand that things change and that if I want to be part of a winning organization, there’s a possibility that I take this kind of role.”
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