A couple of interesting articles appeared today. Ryan Divish posted on the Seattle Times Mariners blog, listing free agents still available. Before his list, however, he shared the Mariners were likely to bring back Franklin Gutierrez on an incentive-laden contract. They had him plugged in at center field. In another interesting post, Eric Blankenship at Lookout Landing shared his views and concerns about the Mariners defense, and that they desperately lacked a quality center fielder.
I’ve lamented the lack of serious center field candidate throughout this hot stove league, and its pretty clear that without any more quality center fielders on the market the M’s will have to be creative or run up the white flag. If the M’s were to sign Gutierrez to a stay-healthy-or-don’t-get-paid deal, it could be a partial answer to their problem. The Mariners need a right handed bat. Gutierrez is right handed. The M’s don’t want to get stuck with a deal for Nelson Cruz they’ll regret for years and years. I’m sure Guti gets a one-year deal. Depending on him to play center-field on a daily basis, however, is problematic, given his injury issues. I’d suggest it’s more likely he’ll play against left handers plus a day or two per week. Unless he’s traded, I would guess it’s likely the slack will be taken up by Dustin Ackley. Not my favorite move by a long shot, but at least it’s a step toward a more acceptable situation.
I’ve made my feelings about Gutierrez clear: he’s too prone to serious injury to be counted on as a regular contributor. This isn’t a one year response, his problems have persisted over the past three seasons. There is no question that when he is healthy, his bat and his glove make the Mariners better. My concern, as always, is what happens when Guti goes down, and he almost certainly will. What is plan B. It seems to me the M’s are better fixed to fill in with Ackley, Saunders or Almonte, than they were last year with Saunders, Morse, Bay and Ibanez. Not a lot better, but not apocalyptically bad. All bets are off if two or more outfielders go down, just as it happened last year.
The Mariners are in a tight spot when it comes to centerfield. Pickings were thin, and if they really wanted to make a splash, Ellsbury was an obvious choice. Now that would have been something, eh, Ellsbury and Cano?
Moving past that, Gutierrez joining Saunders, Ackley, Hart and Almonte in the outfield sounds better than going with Nelson Cruz or going without any outfield reinforcements. With Gutierrez, Hart and Ackley likely sharing at bats at other positions, it’s a suggestion that has merit.