Two things have been true about Seattle Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez in his four seasons with the team: he will play exceptional defense, and he will get hurt. With the possibility of other outfielders like Michael Saunders, Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez and Casper Wells all in the hunt for starting jobs, Gutierrez does not have a guaranteed job in center field.
During his four seasons as the Mariners center fielder, Gutierrez has a total of 38 defensive runs saved. Gutierrez earned some recognition for his defensive excellence, as he was named the AL Gold Glove award winner for center fielders in 2010.
Injuries have been a major problem for Gutierrez the last two seasons, as he only played in 132 MLB games. Gutierrez suffered from various intestinal problems at the end of the 2011 season leading into 2012.
Once Gutierrez had finally recovered from those issues, he was hit in the head by a pickoff attempt from Boston Red Sox LHP Franklin Morales, causing him to miss two months of the season last summer.
Gutierrez is under contract through this season with a $7.5 million option for 2014, so this will be his last chance to prove that he can stay healthy and be productive in centerfield.
Gutierrez is only 30-years old, and many think he can still produce at the level he did in 2009, .283/.339/.425, 18 HRs and 32 defensive runs saved.
So far this spring Gutierrez has made a strong impression, hitting three HRs in only 11 at-bats. If he is healthy, I think Gutierrez will have a productive season. But if injuries catch up to him again, Eric Wedge will have no problem playing Michael Saunders in center like he did last season.