Chase Utley announced back in July that this was going to be his final season in the majors, and it looks like it’s becoming official that a tremendous career is coming to an end.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have formally released Utley, meaning that he will now hang up his cleats after 16 Big League seasons.
Utley is 40 years old and hinted at a desire to step away from baseball in order to turn his attention towards being a full-time dad to his young children.
Utley was well out of his prime when the Dodgers acquired him in 2015, but he had an immeasurable impact as a leader in the clubhouse.
At his peak, Utley was arguably the best hitting second baseman in baseball and helped the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series in 2008.
Over his career, Utley was a six-time All-Star and won four Silver Slugger Awards. He led the league in runs in 2006 and hit-by-pitches for three consecutive seasons from 2007-2009.
There’s a serious debate to be had about whether Utley belongs in the Hall of Fame, and there are compelling arguments on both sides.
It’s an honor for any player to even earn a meaningful discussion for Cooperstown, and Utley certainly should get his due as one of the best offensive players at second base during his prime.
The biggest knock against Utley is his lack of longevity as an elite hitter compared to other Hall of Famers. He was incredible the first half of his career, but injuries started to decrease his production by the time he entered his early 30s.
When compared to other second basemen, the sum of Utley’s seven best WAR seasons ranks ninth all time, ahead of legends like Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and Craig Biggio.
His career WAR totals compared to other second basemen are relatively less astonishing, as he falls below the average of the 20 already in Cooperstown.
However, his career WAR totals at second base are still pretty eye-opening, as he has a higher total than not only Sandberg, Alomar, and Biggio, but also Jackie Robinson.
The only retired second baseman who made more All-Star games than Utley but isn’t in the Hall of Fame is Bobby Richardson.
The stats tell the story of Utley being a historically good source of offense at his position. Utley is seventh all-time among second basemen in home runs, 14th in OPS, 16th in doubles, and 17th in RBI.
Utley is not a lock for election, but there’s certainly a strong case to be made for him based on his credentials as a slugging second baseman.
The Hall of Fame is based on precedence. If there’s a persuasive argument to be made that a player already in isn’t as good as one awaiting election, then the player awaiting election certainly merits a serious look.
Utley has a higher career WAR than 11 of the second basemen already in the Hall of Fame, and his seven highest WAR seasons are better than 14 of the second basemen already in the Hall of Fame.
Looking just at his production from 2005-2011, Utley is a Hall of Famer. The case to be made against him is that his final seven seasons didn’t provide enough of a boost to his chances.
Given the logjam of worthy players that is currently building up as a result of Hall of Fame voters only being able to submit a maximum of 10 players on a ballot each year, Utley probably would have to wait a while regardless.
However, Utley had a phenomenal career, and when compared to other second basemen in the Hall of Fame, he deserves a sincere look.
There’s already some speculation that Utley may return to the game in a coaching or management capacity sometime down the road. If those rumors have any truth, Dodgers’ boss Andrew Friedman has stated that he’ll be the first in line for Utley’s services.
“Whenever that is, we will stalk him,” Friedman stated last winter. “We. Will. Stalk. Him.”