LOS ANGELES – Dressed in Dodger blue, Chase Utley diplomatically answered the questions from three Chicago reporters without revealing whether or not he actually had the Cubs on The List or just wanted to return to California all along.
The Cubs definitely wanted Utley for his offensive impact, veteran presence and playoff experience. But the six-time All-Star second baseman used his hard-earned no-trade rights as leverage in choreographing his exit from the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I don’t want to dissolve any rumors or matter-of-fact any rumors,” Utley said Saturday at Dodger Stadium. “I think the Cubs have a good organization. (The) guys that are coming up obviously have a lot of talent and I think they have an opportunity to win for awhile.”
Utley helped beat the Cubs on Friday night with an RBI triple and a key leadoff walk in the sixth inning of a 4-1 victory. Utley declined to say if the trade talks ever got to the point where he could see himself playing in Chicago.
“There were a number of teams that had some interest a few weeks back and I talked with the Phillies,” Utley said. “I obviously have a good relationship with the front office there and I kind of gave them a handful of teams (where) I would feel like I would fit in fairly well. And they went out and ultimately they found the best deal here in L.A.”
The Dodgers closed on Aug. 20, with the Phillies kicking in $2 million and getting two prospects. Utley – who grew up in Long Beach and played at UCLA and drew strong interest from the San Francisco Giants – admitted his West Coast roots influenced the decision.
“I don’t think it was the ultimate factor,” Utley said. “It goes back to the Phillies have been great to me over the years. And I felt like if I were to move, I think it would be best for them to get something that they would want. And they liked the package that the Dodgers offered.”
At the age of 36, Utley wanted a platform to earn his next contract, and it’s unclear what sort of playing-time guarantees the Cubs would offer or how that would fit with Joe Maddon’s mix-and-match managing style.
Utley has played against the Cubs over the years, but he doesn’t really have any close relationships with anyone inside the organization. He’s hitting .364 with a 1.001 OPS in 15 games this month since recovering from an ankle injury and coming off the disabled list.
“Obviously, this year hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked,” Utley said. “I felt like that had some effects on my performance. Obviously, I wanted a chance to get out there and play. And with all those teams that had interest in me – and I had interest back – there was an opportunity.”
Utley helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series and has a career .902 OPS in 200-plus postseason plate appearances. File all this away in case the Cubs and Dodgers meet again in October in what would be an epic matchup between two iconic franchises.
“I looked at a number of different things to put my list together that would be beneficial for me and the organization,” Utley said, refusing to go off message. “But, again, it came down to the Dodgers having the best offer on the table and I felt comfortable coming here. I grew up here. It’s cool to be a Dodger.”