Let’s get it out of the way. Declining center-fielder Franklin Gutierrez‘s 2014 option was the right thing for the Seattle Mariners to do.
Instead of paying him $7 million to suit up in Seattle next season, the M’s will pay him a $500,000 buyout to test the tepid waters of free agency.
Gutierrez, despite being one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball and occasionally flashing a powerful bat, might as well be legally wedded to the disabled list.
When healthy, Guti was an above average outfielder, but since he was signed to a four-year $20.5 million contract in 2010 he managed to see the field for just 325 games out of the 648 total the M’s played. Over that 325 game span, per nine innings the M’s were paying him roughly $63,000. That’s too much money for a player who batted .241 and hit a total of 27 homers over those four years (granted he only had one fielding error during that stretch).
The M’s obviously couldn’t afford to pay $7 million in 2014 for a 30-year-old outfielder with a history of injuries and lackluster offensive production when not injured. The $6.5 million they saved by cutting ties with the former “Death to Flying Things” can now be used for an outfielder (Jacoby Ellsbury) who can presumably play more than half of the games in a season — and be paid appropriately for doing so.
The M’s need to sign another outfielder —probably two— this offseason, and declining Guti’s option paves the way to do so.
But if no teams decided to overpay for Gutierrez’s streaky on-field presence, should the M’s think about bringing him back?
Sure, if the contract is significantly less and if, and only if, the M’s can snag another proven outfielder. That way the M’s wouldn’t need to use him everyday, and would be able to pay him at a price that appropriates his limited usefulness.
When Gutierrez was on the field he was a pleasure to watch, but he simply wasn’t healthy enough to be worth his contract. If the M’s can bring him back for a fraction of his option price-tag, they should, but it was clear he was not the solution, but rather an accessory, to the team’s problems in the outfield.