There’s been increasing concern in recent weeks regarding the San Francisco Giants‘ inability to address their left field position. Seeing as the team fielded nine different players at the position in 2013 who combined for a .257 average with five homers and a .337 slugging percentage, it was anticipated by many that the Giants would have done something to fill the void by now.
The team has talked up 27-year-old Juan Perez, who hit .277 over 47 September at-bats and played fantastic defense, and as of now he is projected to be the platoon partner of lefthanded hitter Gregor Blanco, who has played a primary role for the Giants during the past two seasons. However, it seems risky to guarantee Perez, who was considered a fringe prospect prior to his emergence and has just 89 major-league at-bats, a portion of a starting role heading into the spring. It’s not like Blanco is a surefire starter either; he has hit under .220 in five of the 12 months that he’s been a Giant, and he only hit .269 against righthanded pitchers last year. While he’s great on defense and is a weapon on the basepaths, Blanco ideally would be a better fit as a fourth outfielder.
Now, though, according to CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, the team’s front office may be becoming desperate to bring in a player just for the sake of giving itself some depth:
The intelligence of the Giants’ pursuit of Gutierrez, the former Seattle Mariner, depends on the role they plan to give him. Based on his performance over the past few seasons, Gutierrez is not a guy who should command a major-league contract at this point. While the market for free agent outfielders is not very good this offseason, Gutierrez simply has not done enough to be guaranteed a big-league spot coming into the season.
For starters, he’s missed at least 50 games a year dating back to 2011, and he’s played 40 and 41 games, respectively, over the past two seasons. He’s had injuries to virtually every area of his body, and there’s no reason to think things will change any time soon, as he has a genetic disorder which causes inflammation in his joints.
He hasn’t really experienced a huge amount of success when he’s been healthy, either. While he was very good in 2009, hitting .283 with 18 homers and 70 RBI, he has only hit over .250 in four of his nine seasons in the MLB.
Another issue may be Gutierrez’s ability to be an effective platoon player. Though he’s a righthanded hitter and has a .287 career average against lefties, he was significantly worse against lefthanders in 2013, hitting just .218 with five extra-base hits in 57 at-bats compared to a .267 mark against righties.
Even with all those issues, though, Gutierrez would be a nice player to bring in on a non-roster deal, as he could provide some cushion should Blanco or Perez falter. The Giants need to shore up their outfield depth after designating Francisco Peguero for assignment late last month, so it would be helpful to have a player in camp with big-league experience who can compete for a role and be ready in Triple-A if necessary. His ability to hit from the right side is especially helpful, as lefthanded-hitting Roger Kieschnick is currently the team’s most polished outfielder projected to be in the minors and would be redundant if Perez failed.
While in all likelihood Gutierrez is never going to be an effective major-leaguer again, it can’t hurt for the Giants to take a chance on him, provided the stakes aren’t too high. San Francisco should not let go of a player on their 40-man roster to add Gutierrez, nut if they can get him on a minor league deal he would be a fine candidate to compete for a job.