Washington Nationals Rumors: Could Two Former Phillies Re-Unite With Jayson Werth In DC?


Could the Nats sign a veteran left-handed second baseman that used to play for one of their division rivals?

While the Washington Nationals have focused mainly on the bullpen with their signing of Oliver Perez and their heavy interest in signing free agent Darren O’Day, president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also looking to find some infield help. The team has been interested in Ben Zobrist to find some utility help, but if the Zobrist plan does not work, could a plan B involve two former Phillies’ infielders?

According to James Wagner of the Washington Post, the Nats are one of a few teams that have shown interest in Chase Utley as a possible bench option along with his former teammate in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins. Here is the latest from Wagner’s column yesterday:

"“Rizzo has said the Nationals want more left-handers in the lineup. Two potential infield and bench solutions: Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Both are former Phillies, friends of Jayson Werth and know new first base coach Davey Lopes well. The Nationals have some interest in six-time all-star Utley, according to a person familiar with the situation.” (h/t Wagner, Washington Post)"

It just so happens that on this date in 2010, the Nationals signed Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract. This past season, both Utley and Rollins played the final two months of the year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rollins spent the whole year in LA and had a slash line of .224/.285/.358 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 144 games. He would eventually lose the starting job to prospect Corey Seager.

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As for Utley, he began the year with the Phillies and had a slash line of .217/.284/.333 with five home runs and 30 RBI’s. He would be traded to the Dodgers in the middle of August and would hit .202/.291/.363 over the final 34 games with three home runs and nine RBI’s. Of course, Utley is most remembered for his slide into second base that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg in Game 2 of the NLDS this October against the Mets.

To me, while both of these options would be interesting, these moves would be strictly for bench purposes only. The Nationals do need a second baseman, but if they can’t land Zobrist, you would think Danny Espinosa or Yunel Escobar (if he’s not traded) would be the second baseman. But, in the case of Utley, he did play three games at first base and two at third with LA this season.

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The problem for Utley if the Nationals do want to get him is that his two game suspension is still under appeal from the NLDS. Plus, he has drawn interest from other teams as well. According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, Utley, who will be 37 on December 17, has drawn interest from three teams in California, where he would most like to play:

As for Rollins, it would be a move that the Nats would look to bring in as a backup shortstop to help out Trea Turner. As Wagner pointed out, one of the key factors about Rollins is his leadership. He mentioned that “Seager credited Rollins as a mentor after his call-up.”

While Rollins is a switch hitter, he had a much better year hitting against left-handed pitching. He hit .297 from the right side of the plate with two home runs, 13 RBI’s, and a .339 on-base percentage. However, when he was hitting against righties, he did have 11 home runs, but hit only .204 at the plate and his on-base percentage was .270.

Next: Nats Sign Oliver Perez To Two-Year Deal

The Nationals do need to improve their bench for the 2016 season, but I would see Rollins as more of an option than Utley. Rollins showed he can hit for power and average last season even in a limited role. As for Utley, while he battled an ankle injury for part of this season, I would view him as more of a longshot unless the Nats don’t sign Zobrist, trade Escobar, and possibly use him in a platoon with Danny Espinosa.