How a Chase Utley to the Dodgers Trade Would Impact the NL West Playoff Battle

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies at bat in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 27, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images
Jason Szenes/Getty Images

The month of July is here, and that means it's time for a steady flow of trade rumors and speculation across the MLB leading up to the July 31st trade deadline.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the most aggressive teams in the league this past offseason, and thanks to a recent surge that's seen them go 8-1 in their last nine games to pull within four games of the NL West lead, it looks like they'll be in a position to buy at the deadline.

Adding a starting pitcher will likely be priority No. 1, but there are a handful of other areas they could look to address, and among them is second base.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the Dodgers may look to target Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in the weeks ahead.

The 34-year-old Utley was a first-round pick of the Phillies back in 2000, and he is currently in his 11th big league season with the team.

He's not the MVP candidate he was in his prime, and injuries have again limited him, as he has missed 28 games with rib cage soreness, but he's healthy now and he's been productive when he has been in the lineup.

In 201 at-bats, he's hitting .284/.348/.517 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI's, and his .866 OPS as of now is his best mark since the 2009 season.

With Utley set to hit free agency at the end of the season, and with the Phillies seemingly headed for a rebuilding phase of sorts, it seems highly likely that the two sides will part ways in the offseason. However, the team could still look to bring him back on at a substantially smaller price than the $15 million he's making this season.

In a recent article from Danny Knobler of CBSSports, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said the following of Utley in response to whether or not the team would shop him:

He's been an iconic player for us. My intention would be to keep him in our uniform for the rest of his career, if possible. I kind of view Chase as a Phillie for life. That's my hope.

That's certainly the right thing to say at the beginning of July, but leading an organization that needs to get younger, one has to imagine that Amaro and the Phillies would at least entertain the idea of moving Utley for the right return.

That brings us back to the Dodgers, a team that has seemingly thrown caution to the wind as far as spending is concerned, and may be the only team willing to take on all of Utley's contract and still offer up a solid return in a trade.

Mark Ellis has seen the bulk of the playing time at second base, and he's hitting .259/.305/.346 on the season with 20 RBI's and 22 runs. Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto have also seen time at the position, but they are best served as utility players starting a couple times a week.

It's not as though the 36-year-old Ellis has been a gaping hole from a production standpoint, but there's also little question that Utley would be a potentially impactful upgrade over him.

In what was a healthy second half last season, Utley hit nine home runs with 42 RBI's and an .805 OPS over 267 at-bats, and that was after playing in just 10 games in the first half.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to think that slotted in the Dodgers talented lineup in the second half, he'd be capable of putting up an .850-plus OPS with 40-plus RBI's, 50-plus runs and double-digit home runs.

That type of production boost at second base, coupled with a healthy Matt Kemp, a full half of Yasiel Puig and a starting rotation bolstered by the addition of another arm at the deadline, certainly looks as though it could put the Dodgers in a position to be right where everyone expected them to be when the season comes to a close; atop the NL West standings.