Can Chase Utley win the Los Angeles Dodgers the World Series? Will they even be able to outlast the San Francisco Giants in the October race for the National League West Division?
The Dodgers just pushed their payroll to the stratospheric heights of more than $300 million, an all-time record, with the acquisition of Ultey, a six-time All-Star and World Series winner.
With a straight payroll of $298.5 million, according to Major League Baseball, performance bonuses and end-of-season awards will almost certainly push L.A. over the $300 million mark, the Associated Press reported.
But as Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones told the AP, “they haven’t won the championship. You still have to play between the lines.”
The Dodgers took the West in 2009 and 2013. In 2009, they lost the National League Championship series to the Phillies in five games. In 2013, they lost the NL Championship to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games.
This year, despite their huge budget, the Dodgers are still locked in a neck and neck race with the San Francisco Giants, with a payroll of $166 million at last count. That makes the Dodgers the No. 1 spender and the Giants No. 5.
The Giants are just 2.5 games behind the first place Dodgers and made their own move Thursday, picking up outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Cincinnati Reds.
The Dodgers are paying Utley $2.5 million for the rest of 2015 with an option to pay him $11 million in 2016.
With the Dodgers’ history of choking in October, the move to get Utley is a “sensible swap” for both the Dodgers and Phillies. Utley joins his old teammate Jimmy Rollins, who is now playing short for Los Angeles, writes Lyle Spencer at MLB.com.
But even with the center of the infield shored up, the Dodgers still have a massive problem: “The bullpen is horrible,” as the L.A. Times‘ Houston Mitchell writes. And the Dodgers have done nothing to improve the bullpen since last year.
Meanwhile, the Giants have one of the Major Leagues’ best bullpens.
And Byrd is a critical replacement for the Giants down the stretch with Hunter Pence back on the DL with a strained oblique. But the Giants wanted someone who “moves the needle” offensively, not just another defensive player in the outfield.
For all of Utley’s former greatness, will he be able to move the needle toward Dodger greatness? As he joined Los Angeles, he was batting.217 but GM Farhan Zaidi is definitely a believer. “When he’s healthy, he’s still one of the best hitters in the game,” Zaidi told the Times.
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