The Mariners are in desperate need of outfield depth, and reports are coming in that they've found it—or, at least, a buy-low option. The Mariners are on the cusp of re-signing Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year deal.
Mariners close to bringing Franklin Gutierrez back on a 1-year, major league contract sources tell @FOXSports1.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 18, 2013
Mariners have been encouraged by recent reports on Franklin Gutierrez's health, need a right-handed outfield bat.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 18, 2013
In all likelihood, it's the deal Jason Bay received last year. There are likely performance options that take it higher than 1 year, $1 million—but that's probably around where it starts.
There is no downside to this deal. If Gutierrez stays healthy and ends up being some approximation of his former self, he's a bargain at a position of need. If his health continues to be a freakish problem, as it was as recently as this month, the Mariners can cut him loose with no impact. His deal will not inhibit future spending, and there's no guarantee he even makes the team out of spring training.
Now, for the delusional optimism.
Since the Mariners signed Robinson Cano, they've added three bargain bin players. Morrison, with Smoak on the roster, is excess. But the Mariners do need right-handed bats and, to this point, they've only added cheap ones. It could be that Zduriencik will round out the rest of the roster with buy-low-and-hope-for-the-best players—or maybe he's saving for something. Hopefully he's saving for something.
On Gutierrez specifically, he has his fans and he has his detractors. Between Seattle and Tacoma, he's played in a total of 248 games the past three seasons, having suffered a long list of maladies. And, sure, if you want you can be angry at him. I don't understand it, but I'm not going to tell you what to do.
But in the fantasy world where Franklin Gutierrez is healthy, where he performs at the peak of his abilities—which I think is above what we saw in 2009—he's one of the 10-15 best position players in the game. It's likely we'll never see that peak because the world is a horribly cruel place, but few buy-low options have a ceiling as high as his.
And it's the appeal of that ceiling that's so alluring. I've referenced it numerous times on Twitter, but Jeff had the definitive piece on the romantic appeal of Franklin Gutierrez at the beginning of this past season. Stop for two minutes and go read it. As the title says, Guti is baseball. "But if he just... or if they just..." stories are why we love this game.
But there's more than the macro too.
Guti on fresh legs is something to behold. You'd hear the hard crack of bat on ball and see the laser streak of a hard liner out to center, and you glance off it to catch Guti. On some balls, with any fielder, you may see him either take the courtesy jog or desperation sprint—but when you looked down and saw the area between the two with Guti, him instead beginning the confident stalk back to the fence, it was something else. The ball would scream for the wall, or beyond, and before he took four steps you'd rise from your seat and think "Holy hell, he's going to catch this." And he would. On those perfect plays, time would slow down and the scene would play out as if it were deliberately constructed.
Honestly, watching Guti chase down a fly ball is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen watching baseball.
I don't know if we'll ever see that guy again. We probably won't. But for the cost the Mariners are willing to pay to find out, I have no problem with the deal.
Welcome back, Death to Flying Things.
Update: Enrique Rojas has the contract details: 1 year, $1 million, with another $2 million available in incentives. There's nothing to dislike about this one. Well done.