How Will Dodgers Create Roster Space for Utley, Gutierrez & Romo?

chase-utley
(Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

In a flurry of interesting developments on Friday night, the Dodgers have reportedly reached one-year agreements with infielder Chase Utley and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, both of whom are no strangers to the organization. These two recent deals, along with the addition of righty reliever Sergio Romo, have created a logjam on an already overcrowded 40-man roster, requiring the club to make three corresponding moves before the trio of new contracts can be made official.

Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports was among the first to break the news about Gutierrez, while Andy McCullough of the LA Times initially mentioned the revelation regarding Utley towards the end of the evening.

The right-handed hitting Gutierrez was originally signed by the Dodgers back in the year 2000, and has amassed 11 years of big league service, including spending the last seven with the Mariners. Last season, he hit .246/.329/.452 with 14 home runs in 283 plate appearances over 98 games. During the course of his career, the 33-year-old native of Venezuela has produced a .257/.311/.409 slash line, but perhaps more importantly, has hit.289/.351/.495 in more than 1100 lifetime plate appearances against southpaw pitching.

Utley admirably filled the Dodgers’ leadoff role for the bulk of the 2016 season against right-handed pitching, having hit .264/.329/.416 in 112 games when hitting at the top of the lineup. With the acquisition of Logan Forsythe in January, Utley will certainly contribute as a key bench piece this season, but many pundits believe with the amount of youth heading into spring camp that his leadership skills and examples of work ethic alone should be worth a $4-5 million dollar deal.

While the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Sergio Romo still hasn’t been announced by the team, the Dodgers will need to create three roster spots on the 40-man to create the necessary space for the new contracts, presumably not long after players file into the club house for spring training at Glendale.

One obvious move to create a spot will be placing righty reliever Yimi Garcia on the 60-day disabled list. Garcia will miss the entirety of the 2017 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late October of last year.

Several people close to the club believe that a move to place outfielder Trayce Thompson on the 60-day DL could also take place at the beginning of spring camp. Initially believed to be just lower back irritation, it was discovered in August that Thompson had multiple fractures in his back. Although he’s been participating in a strict recovery regimen, the exact timetable for him to return still remains unclear.

“If I’m not 100-percent come Opening Day, it’s not necessarily a terrible thing,” Thompson told reporters last month. “I feel like I have a lot to catch up on. I have to keep in mind the big picture with an entire season to play.”

When looking at the possibilities to create the third vacancy, besides the unlikely chance of dumping a player in a prospective trade, three potential DFA candidates come to mind straight away — Darin Ruf, Scott Van Slyke and Chris Taylor. Van Slyke and Ruf became expendable considering Utley’s ability to provide cover at first base, while Taylor may be abandoned if the club indeed decides to show faith in super-utility man Enrique Hernandez. Van Slyke and Taylor have options remaining on their contracts, though, while Ruf does not.

As far as the 25-man roster goes, the addition of Gutierrez could set up a possible platoon with Andre Ethier in left field, justifying the need for Andrew Toles to begin the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Utley appears to be set to provide Forsythe cover at the keystone, while also manning second base when Forsythe shifts over to third to spell Justin Turner.

Please feel free to check back frequently, as all of us here at TBPC have often been updating the blog’s 25-man roster predictions on our projections page.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

 

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