The Mariners have re-signed Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year deal, presumably for a fairly modest salary. Something of a superstar when completely healthy, Guti has spent the past six seasons with the Mariners battling a plethora of injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, and ankylosing spondylitis. I’m not kidding. Once a premier center fielder known for his defensive savvy, Guti is sticking around in the league because of his bat, not his glove. Who’da thought?
Guti refills his platoon role with the M’s, where he’ll likely pair with a lefty in one of the corner outfield spots due to his instable health. This works out well for both the M’s and Guti. Over his career, he has hit .243/.292/.366 (.290 wOBA, 79 wRC+) against righties and .291/.346/.491 (.360 wOBA, 126 wRC+) against lefties. As an everyday player, his offensive numbers round out to about league average (give or take), along with very solid defense. Guti probably isn’t up to the task of playing everyday, and we certainly shouldn’t plan for such (also known as the Jack Zduriencik special). He’s clearly a different player than he was in 2009 when he was worth 6.0 WAR, but in 2015 he proved to be an extremely worthwhile role player.
Last year, Guti benefited from facing more lefties than righties and he’ll continue to receive that benefit. It shouldn’t be expected, however, to see the same results from him. Guti was absolutely incredible last year. Out of all MLB hitters with at least 180 plate appearances, he ranked fourth in wRC+, at 167. Not a sabermetric kind of person? He ranked fifth in the MLB in OPS, at .974, tied with Miguel Cabrera(!!!). Second in the MLB in SLG% (.620). He was GOOD. He struck out at a higher rate than you’d like, but the results speak for themselves. This was his best season (according to WAR) since his 2009 6.0 WAR season and he only played in 59 games.
Currently, the Mariners have the following outfielders on their 40 man roster: Nelson Cruz, Ramon Flores, Franklin Gutierrez, James Jones, Shawn O’Malley, Daniel Robertson, Stefen Romero, Seth Smith, and Mark Trumbo. Dipoto cited minimal athleticism on the roster, and also said that the defense doesn’t line up with the team’s spacious park. Only Robertson, Flores, Guti, and Jones match fit the profile of players that Dipoto is seeking (although Jones is a pretty subpar fielder). Gone are the days of converting infielders to outfielders and being complacent with big, unathletic hitters in the corners. Guti is one of the first moves Dipoto will make to shore up the depth in the soon-to-be-revamped outfield, along with newly-acquired Dan Robertson.
In his press conference, Dipoto went somewhat out of his way to commend Brad Miller and his upside and note that Seth Smith has done a lot to create lineup length. Brad Miller, you may now, is now a former Mariner. Something leads me to believe that it’s possible Dipoto may be posturing to up Seth Smith’s value. Dipoto was quite obviously posturing to boost Miller’s value, and it seems he is doing the same for Smith. Smith is an awesome platoon bat, but he might not bring the necessary skills as a defender or runner for Dipoto’s liking. He’s stated that the M’s will be a run prevention club, a la the 2009 M’s. I personally think a platoon of Seth Smith and Guti would be a rather good one, but we’ll see what kind of players Dipoto brings in to overhaul the outfield. What a wonderful start to the offseason.