Marlins should sign Utley as infield depth

Marlins should sign Utley as infield depth

MIAMI -- For 13 years, the Marlins got more than their fill of facing Chase Utley. The six-time National League All-Star second baseman frequently feasted on Miami pitching.

But that was then, and this is now. Utley, 38, is in the twilight of his outstanding career. The left-handed-hitting veteran remains a free agent, and the Marlins are still in the market for position player depth. If agreeable, the two sides could make an ideal fit.

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It is worth noting that there are no rumblings of talks in the works, but it would be a match that could be mutually beneficial. Besides, in 2015, Utley played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly in Los Angeles, so there is familiarity.

Ideally, Miami would prefer a right-handed-hitting bench option to mix and match at first base with Justin Bour. Utley could be the exception.

"You never have enough depth," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "That's why we're monitoring the market to see if there are any late bargains."

If we've seen anything from the Marlins this offseason, it is that they are not necessarily seeking to be conventional. They have constructed a bullpen that will likely be entirely right-handed, and three of their projected starting pitchers are lefties.

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With Utley, you don't worry too much about statistical splits. He has hit throughout his 14-year career. The Marlins know that well. In 179 career games against Miami, Utley has a slash line of .278/.369/.482 with 30 home runs and 125 RBIs.

Utley can offer depth at three positions -- first, second and third.

Cost shouldn't be an issue, either. He made $7 million in 2016, belting 14 homers and driving in 52 with the Dodgers. Would $5 million, plus incentives, get the deal done?

The Marlins are committed to their core eight. But that group has had trouble staying healthy. Giancarlo Stanton appeared in 119 games last year, and Bour was in 90.

Martin Prado played in 153 games, but the organization is hoping to give him more rest this year.

Frankly, a bench with Utley joining Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas and A.J. Ellis would provide Mattingly with plenty of substitute options.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.