I don't remember a first-place team like this year's Los Angeles Dodgers. They've started three different first basemen, four second basemen, four third basemen, four shortstops, seven left fielders, three center fielders, five right fielders, and they've churned through 31 different pitchers, including 16 starters. They've made so many transactions and roster moves that the busiest man in baseball in 2015 has probably been team director of travel Scott Akasaki.
With Howie Kendrick out another couple weeks with a hamstring issue, Utley will be reunited with his longtime Phillies teammate Jimmy Rollins. The two were double-play partners from late 2003 through 2014, making them one of the longest-running double-play combos in major league history. But that also means the Dodgers will be trying to hold off the San Francisco Giants in the National League West with a 36-year-old second baseman and 36-year-old shortstop (Rollins is 20 days older).
Utley began the season in one of the worst slumps you'll ever see, hitting .099 through May 8. He was hitting .179 when he landed on the DL in late June with ankle inflammation, but since his return on Aug. 8, he's gone 15-for-31 (.484) with six extra-base hits.
With Utley sliding into second base until Kendrick's return, the Dodgers can use utility man Enrique Hernandez to platoon in center field with rookie Joc Pederson, who went 0-for-2 in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics and is hitting .172 over his past 64 games, and just .205/.305/.349 versus left-handed pitchers on the season.
For all the concerns about the back of the Dodgers' rotation and the bullpen, the offense has been inconsistent after a hot April. Yasiel Puig's hamstring injury likely created more desire to push for the Utley trade. This now gives manager Don Mattingly no shortage of platoon options throughout the lineup, especially when Kendrick returns. Once Kendrick and Puig are healthy, Mattingly could use platoons at second base (Utley/Kendrick), left field (Carl Crawford/Scott Van Slyke), center field (Pederson/Hernandez) and right field (Andre Ethier/Puig).
It's hard to get a read on this team. The Dodgers were 22-10 on May 12, so they've been just two games over .500 for the past three-plus months, even though Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have gone a combined 17-6 with a 1.63 ERA since that date. In other words: This is a great team when one of those two takes the mound, and a not-so-great team the rest of the time.
Which tells me the key to the Dodgers holding off the Giants -- who are facing their own injury issues with Hunter Pence landingon the DL with a strained oblique -- isn't really so much what Utley does over the next two weeks or in September, but whether the non-Greinke/Kershaw starters pitch well and the bullpen stops blowing late leads like it did Tuesday, when Kershaw departed with a 4-1 lead after seven innings.
The Dodgers and Giants have six games remaining; San Francisco leads the season series nine wins to three. The Chicago Cubs' recent hot stretch means the NL West runner-up isn't guaranteed a wild-card spot, so those six games will obviously be a huge factor in deciding which of those two teams heads to the postseason.