Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Franklin Gutierrez: Can we expect something different?

It was a little bit lost in the Robinson Cano signing, but Franklin Gutierrez is back as a Mariner through the 2014 season.

I am somewhat apprehensive of this deal, although it is apparently very incentive laden up to $2 million dollars. So we can assume that the Mariners front office is equally as concerned that the Glass Guti might make a reappearance.

The biggest concern about Guti is that he seems like one of those players destined to ride the disabled list for his entire career. Between from 2011 to 2013, he played only 173 games for the big club in Seattle. The Gutierrez game logs from those seasons show a sprinkling of games through the entire season. In 2012 and 13 there were stretches where he missed 50+ games between appearances. It’s no secret that Gutierrez is injury prone and fans are apprehensive about his return.

In a strict monetary sense, Gutierrez’s contract from 2011 to 2013 earned him $16.8MM, that averages out to a whopping $97,182 per game he played over that span. (For comparison’s sake, Robinson Cano is averaging $148,000 per game on his new contract). It certainly seems like an incredible overpay for a guy who simply doesn’t play very much.

Building his new contract on incentives really cuts down on the financial burden the Mariners have put up with over the last few seasons. So at least in that respect, it won’t be nearly as painful to watch him ride the DL for extended stints if he gets bit by the injury bug again.

It’s easy to say that Gutierrez is just a glass skeleton who will inevitably make his way back to the DL, and in some respects it’s correct. Hamstring and oblique injuries over recent seasons definitely point to problems staying healthy and limber. But in some other cases it just seems like Guti is really, really unlucky.

Take this concussion from last season. After making a return from a torn pectoral muscle, Guti is welcomed back by a sailed throwover to first base that catches him clean in the ear. By the time he was up and walking off the field he looked like he had gone a round with Chuck Liddel, his ear had swollen up so much. Guti went on to miss 50 games with a concussion.

So now that he’s back for sure, and for a much more reasonable price, what can we expect from Gutierrez? Will he be the same unlucky player we are always seeing on the disabled list, or are we going to see a statement year from a guy who definitely has something to prove?

Gutierrez has been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which is basically a degenerative arthritic condition that will eventually lead to spinal fusion. This is not something that bodes well for a major league ball player bent on hitting 30 home runs. According to Guti, he might be best utilized as a platooning outfielder to cut down on his playing time a little bit. The end of last season say him playing ‘three or four times a week, and that worked’.

That playing time at the end of last season was a bright spot for Mariners fans too. Through September he was able to hit .235/.261/.447 with 5 homers and 13 RBIs. All through 23 games. The sample size is small, but consistent with his batting numbers over the last 4 years (.241/.289/.363). What this means is that Guti has been able to come back from all of his injuries and maintain a respectable level of play. Rather than come back as a lesser hitter each time, whenever Guti is back in the lineup we are able to count on a guy who can hit with a reasonable amount of consistency.

On the other hand, degenerative arthritis and skeletal health issues (plantar fasciitis, hamstring strains etc…) might affect his play in the field. Guti was a Gold Glover in 2010 with the Mariners. That season he posted a 1.000 fielding percentage over 1200+ innings, and a UZR of 16.0. Since 2011 when the injury problems really began, he hasn’t played more than 320 innings in the outfield, and has put up slightly lower fielding percentages of .990 and .987. (UZR of -8.8 and -2.4). While those numbers aren’t atrocious by any standard, they certainly point to a decline in his abilities and perhaps some lingering injuries that have affected his range and play. Though, those were injury shortened seasons and the sample size is less than ideal.

The re-addition of Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners is a safe bet. It’s not an outrageous amount of money to pay for a guy who has the potential to be a gold glove outfielder and a 30 HR batter. If he stays healthy I see the potential for him to be a definite asset to a Mariners team that desperately needs to embrace platooning. Between Gutierrez, Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, surely there is room for the M’s to build some specific lineups.

The bottom line is this: In the past Gutierrez has been incredibly unlucky with injuries, he has the potential to make a comeback, but may be limited to the amount of games he can play because of a degenerative injury. If he can stay healthy and is able to play 4+ times per week, I expect to see him as a definite asset to the organization, and at a bargain of a price.


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  • BigDog330

    It is great to have Gutierrez back. We know we can’t expect him to be there for 162 games, but he can be a valuable utility outfielder. Late inning replacement, pinch hitter, platoon outfielder? Whatever works. When he is healthy, use him. When he needs a break, have somebody else ready to go. He doesn’t have to do much to be worth his current contract. Maybe he can earn back some of that excess sick leave pay of his last contract.
    I think winning teams have guys like Guti and Ibanez as their bench players. The problem comes when you try to make them your everyday starters. We should still add a starting outfielder, but that’s another topic.
    I loved hearing the quotes from Guti after the new contract was announced. It sounded like he really wanted the chance to return to the Mariners. I know it was just rumors, but there seemed to be other teams willing to take a hedged gamble on his future. The attitude is there even if his body is not.
    Anybody think he would have been resigned if Wedge were still around? Wedge let it show in interviews that Guti’s continuing injury setbacks were making it very difficult on the manager.

    • GD

      Exactly! Despite only playing in 143 innings (if I recall right) he hit 10 HRs. If he can play 350-400 innings and hit 22 HRs, he will outperform his contract for 2014!!!

  • GD

    Matt, If you are going to analyze what his contract cost the organization per each game from 2011…you should actually go back and see what ‘value’ according to FanGraph Gutierrez brought to the team for EVERY game he played since he came here in early 2009:

    1. FanGraph values his combined contract value from 2009-2013 as being: $41,5M. That is how much value that he brought to Seattle from the total of his actual salary of $16,8M during his career w/Seattle. Which means, Gutierrez produced $24.7M in value MORE than he was actually paid in Seattle. I really think he can produce at his 2010 level of a 1.9 WAR, and that year he was worth $7.5M in value.

    2. Seattle has come out ahead on Gutierrez in every way, even though it has been frustrating the past 3 years for Seattle. But overall, he ‘deserved’ another contract after his $500k buyout this offseason. I personally thought it would take $2M base with $2M add’l incentives…so, Seattle did even better on his new contract than I thought they’d do!

    3. So, here is a ‘different’ way to view his true value to the mariners over the 478 games he has played for Seattle to date since the start of 2009. His overall games of 478 versus his actually produced FanGraph ‘player value’ comes to Gutierrez actually “contributing” a total of $86,820 in value for EACH of the 478 games he’s played in.

    4. He was making close to league minimum in 2009 (I think it was $450k in 2009), so if you ad that onto the contract from 2010-2013…he made a total of $20.65M over his 5 yr contract. Your ‘game cost’ from 2011-2013 doesn’t do what he actually did for Seattle any justice! So, over 478 games and paying him $20.65M he’s only costed the Mariners $43,200 per each game, but yet according to Fangraphs player value…Guteirrez ‘gave in player value’ a total of $86,860. So, Seattle got Double their money’s worth over the entire contract length of Gutierrez’ contract.

    That was an Excellent contract for Seattle. The past 3 years we just have a tendency to focus on the negatives and injuries, but 2009-10 stats CANNOT be overlooked in this case…which is what you are doing when comparing him to Cano. To get a more accurate value/cost look, you have to take everything from 2009-2013 on Gutierrez’ stats for a fare and accurate rendering.

    Just thought I’d throw a different look into your story here!


    • Matthew Seto

      Hi Garry,

      You’re definitely right, with respect to the ‘value’ of a win and how much Guti has contributed to the Mariners, it certainly looks like the M’s have made out very well with him. And even better is that the new contract offers the same at a much lower price.

      As for the comparison between the cost/game and comparison against Cano, I was merely just trying to find another way to show that Guti had missed a lot of games due to injury etc…

      I’d be enthralled to see Guti return to his 1.9 WAR from 2010, though with a shortened season (if he platoons in the field 3-5 times per week) it might be tough to see. for 2014, both Steamer and Oliver have him at roughly a 0.0 WAR. which is probably a reflection of fewer games played.

      If anything I think we can all agree that for the price it doesn’t matter if he turns out to be a dud, similar to the Jayson Bay deal last year, the M’s threw a winger out there that could pay off huge if Guti can get stay off the DL.