The thing that excited us the most about Jack Zduriencik back when he was first hired was the notion that, based on his track record in Milwaukee, he has an impeccable eye for talent. It seems that very eye led him to specifically target Franklin Gutierrez to play center field. Pravda chimes in:
"Gutierrez is the player that made this deal happen," Zduriencik said. "[Mets GM] Omar [Minaya] and I had a discussion late today, and I told him I had to get a center fielder in one of these deals and the guy I really want is in Cleveland."
As it turned out, the Mets and Indians also had been talking trade.
"Omar called me back a half-hour later and told me we could get the guy I wanted."
This wasn't Zduriencik settling for what the Indians would give up - this was Zduriencik apparently landing the #1 guy on his wish list. I don't know about you, but I find that to be rather powerfully reassuring.
Lost in all the talk about how Gutierrez is a spectacular defender is the fact that he's really not that bad at the plate, and at 26 next February, he's still got some upside as he enters his supposed prime. He'll never be mistaken for a guy with great discipline or an uncanny ability to make contact, but he doesn't get himself out on too many bad pitches, and there's a fair bit of power in his bat. Over a full season, he's got 15-20 homer potential, even in Safeco. That's not bad. It's not Bret Boone, but it's more than acceptable when it comes from a guy with that kind of glove.
Gutierrez is already a perfectly adequate fastball/changeup hitter. It's against those two pitches that he makes the most contact and makes the best contact. So he should be able to handle lefties without too much problem. Where he runs into trouble is the standard slider/curveball stuff from righties, against which he too often hits into an easy out. He doesn't necessarily struggle to put the bat on the ball when it breaks, but he struggles to put the bat on the ball with any authority, so in that regard there's still a lot of room for improvement. Right now he's only in line to be an offensive asset in a third of our games.
Still, he's young, he's talented, he hit in AAA, he hit in 2007, and he plays awesome defense. If he never improves upon his current .260/.310/.410 ability, he's an average to above-average player. And if he makes a few gains and bumps up that slugging percentage a little bit, he turns into a tremendous value and one of the better center fielders in baseball. He's not there yet, but he has a decent chance, and that's great news for an organization that's still recovering from trading Adam Jones.
Jack Zduriencik brings to Seattle maybe the best eye for talent the franchise has ever had. Jack Zduriencik specifically targeted Franklin Gutierrez. Even if you're not a big fan of the player, at least have a little faith in our new GM. This is why he's here. This is why we hired him. Give him a chance. He just might know what he's doing.