The Los Angeles Dodgers are acquiring a second aging former Philadelphia Phillies superstar, and, like the first, the move has the potential to be an upgrade.

The Dodgers pulled off the biggest waiver deadline trade this year in getting second baseman Chase Utley from Philadelphia, a move made to absorb incumbent second baseman Howie Kendrick’s current hamstring injury, which has him on the disabled list.

Plenty of clubs had August interest in Utley, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, but a pair of “mid-level” minor league prospects got it done for the Dodgers, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

With the way Utley has hit since returning from an ankle injury, this move could be a massive boost for the Dodgers lineup, which remains inconsistent against even mediocre pitching. It proved just that in being swept by the Oakland A’s this week.

The Utley deal, while potentially impactful, does not address the Dodgers’ more serious and immediate need for a reliable bullpen arm. The team’s lack of a solid wing out of the pen was highlighted in the two-game Oakland series. These were possibly two of the Dodgers’ ugliest losses this year, considering the point in the season, the state of the National League West and the fact that L.A. held leads in both games.’s Mark Saxon reported Wednesday afternoon that “the Dodgers will receive $4 million from Philadelphia to offset the $6 million remaining on Utley’s $15 million salary.” This would set Utley up to become a free agent after the season.

Acquiring Utley can certainly help L.A. Kendrick is expected to be out until early September, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, and Utley has been hot since returning from the disabled list, batting .484 (15-for-31) with five doubles and a home run in eight games. Before missing 37 games with the ankle issues, Utley had hit .179/.257/.275 in 249 plate appearances. He had started the year 9-for-91.

If Utley brings his latest brand of production to the Dodgers, it will be a big help to a lineup that scored eight runs in its last three games, against starters Anthony DeSclafani, Felix Doubront and Jesse Chavez. In the way Marco Scutaro caught fire after being traded to the San Francisco Giants in 2012, Utley can be that kind of small-sample boost to the Dodgers as he plays second and probably some third and first base.

“His bat speed is very good,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told 94WIP in Philadelphia on Tuesday. “You can see his legs are underneath him, and it seems pretty clear that there was something going on in his ankle that was limiting him in some way, shape or form. He looks like he’s pretty much a man on a mission.”

Amaro also noted that it was “very likely” Chase Utley would remain in Philadelphia through the end of the year, which obviously wasn’t true. The first comment wasn’t false, though: Utley is hitting the ball harder now than he has all season. Daren Willman of tweeted as much:

Utley fills a hole in the lineup, but he does not improve the Dodgers bullpen, which has nearly been the worst in the league since the All-Star break. Like Utley, the group is also producing some hitter-friendly exit velocities of late, as the bullpen went into Wednesday with a hard-hit rate of nearly 30 percent and a soft-hit rate of 17.5 percent, the fifth-worst in the league since the break, according to FanGraphs

This has been a problem for the Dodgers all season, as it seems like the only thing the bullpen is great at is strikeouts—its 26.4 percent strikeout rate leads the league—but it also strands only 71 percent of runners, the second-worst mark in the NL

In the two games in Oakland, the bullpen allowed six runs in 4.1 innings. Jim Johnson, the arm acquired from the Atlanta Braves at the non-waiver deadline to be the bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, has allowed 14 earned runs in six innings (eight appearances), making the unit significantly worse and more unreliable than it was before his arrival.

“Obviously we’re going to have to find ways to get the ball from our starters to Kenley,” manager Don Mattingly told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve got guys who can do that, and I trust that we’re going to do that.”

Trust is hardly evident, as Mattingly, just like last season, has had to stick with his starters too long into games. (Think back to the elimination game in last year’s playoffs, with Clayton Kershaw against the St. Louis Cardinals. A similar thing happened Wednesday, when Alex Wood bore too much of the burden in the decisive sixth inning.) The alternative has been to wear out the couple of arms that can get high-leverage outs until they are fatigued enough that they are no longer solutions.

“Clone Kenley Jansen,” Grantland’s Jonah Keri said this Wednesday on Baseball Tonight. “That’s the solution to their problems.”

Utley is a good gamble for the Dodgers. He is low-risk, high-reward at its finest for a team that can throw its money around as a Band-Aid. But unless he can pitch effectively in game-deciding situations (spoiler alert: he cannot), the same problem that made the Dodgers vulnerable down the stretch and into the postseason last year will again bite them in 2015.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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