Franklin Gutierrez has struggled to stay healthy in recent years while the Seattle Mariners have stood by his side and waited patiently for him to return to the form that made him one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball. But he never got healthy in 2013 and has informed the team that he will not play in 2014 at all. The team has placed Gutierrez on the restricted list as a result, opening up a roster spot for newly acquired Fernando Rodney. But now, Seattle must move on and find another piece to replace Franklin for the upcoming season.
Last season, Gutierrez managed just 141 plate appearances as he battled a gastrointestinal issue that he could not shake. He finished the season with batting .248/.273/.503 with 10 home runs. He had signed a one-year, $1M deal with the Mariners this offseason that including an additional $2M in incentives. But after a relapse of his gastrointestinal issue this winter, the soon-to-be 31-year-old Gutierrez will take time off to focus on regaining his health.
While he wasn’t figured to be an every-day starter in 2014, Gutierrez was an important piece of the gameplan for the M’s. With an outfield that is filled with left-handed bats, Gutierrez was going to be counted on as an important platoon option from the right side of the plate. Without him available to the team, the interest in free-agent right-handed slugger Nelson Cruz is likely to skyrocket in the coming days. Gutierrez was the backup plan in case talks with Cruz stalled but without him, Seattle will now have to press hard to get the deal done.
There’s no indication about how serious this condition is or if a year away from baseball will help Gutierrez get back to baseball in 2015. During his peak, he provided excellent defense for Seattle in center field and a nice presence in the lineup with his bat. You hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Franklin Gutierrez in a Seattle uniform but for now the Mariners must move on for 2014.