Veteran second baseman Chase Utley is set to return to the big league stage in 2016 for his 14th Major League season and likely his last season, according to a report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
On Tuesday, Utley's agent Joe Wolfe told Sherman, "One hundred percent he is playing next year."
It is said that speculation regarding his retirement was starting to pick up after Utley was suspended for two games during the NLDS after sliding into New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, however, Utley appealed and his hearing was delayed meaning he could be serving that suspension during the first two games of 2016.
According to Sherman, the thought behind MLB delaying the hearing was, "why have a hearing if Utley might decide to call it a career during the winter."
The new date has not yet been set but it is known that it will be at some point next spring. The slide into Tejada broke his leg which he had surgery on the following day.
Joe Torre had handed the suspension to Utley as it was ruled illegal after taking time to review the play via instant replay himself. The original plan was for the hearing to take place while the Dodgers were still in the playoffs.
In the end, the league pushed it back so it wouldn't interfere with postseason play. As for the rule to appeal a suspension, a player has two weeks to assemble a case which was part of the reason as to what caused the initial delay.
Utley is now a free agent as the Dodgers have declined his $15 million 2016 option. Utley, now coming off supposedly his worst season yet, ended his 2015 season having hit a combined .212 for the Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies with just a .629 OPS.
As noted by Sherman, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to see the 37-year-old veteran infielder return in 2016, however, they are not set to give him a large payday which may or may not effect his decision as to where he will end up come the start of the Hot Stove season.
As noted by MLBTraderumors, Utley, who failed to hit double-digit home runs this season (8), will be facing a limited free agent market, though his track record should earn him an incentive-based big league deal for a team with needs at second base. Possibilities include the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels (who had interest in him this summer) and the San Diego Padres. All five of these teams could use a guy like Utley, not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well.