Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/19/13
Often-injured outfielder returns to M’s The Seattle Mariners continue to makes moves in anticipation of the 2014 MLB season, this time re-signing one of their own free agents, center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. Franklin Gutierrez is an outstanding outfielder.  He has a decent bat too.  Franklin is fully capable of hitting .270 or better, that is, assuming he can stay healthy. The Mariners, earlier in the offseason, declined an option that would have kept Gutierrez in Seattle for $7.5 million.  It’s hard to argue that move.  The all-too-often injured Gutierrez has only played in 173 games the past three seasons. The decision to bring back  Gutierrez, at a far reduced rate, reported to be $1 million for one year, makes sense financially, but is a bit of a head-scratcher from a roster building perspective. Franklin Guiterrez has re-signed with the Seattle Mariners. What it means Before this signing, the outfield looked to be Corey Hart and Logan Morrison on the corners with Dustin Ackley in center and Michael Saunders on the bench for defensive replacements.   Now the M’s have brought in a fifth outfielder to the equation. I know there are some of you who discount Justin Smoak being on the roster for much longer and Morrison being the new guy at first base.  I still don’t see that being the case. What I think it does mean is that Michael Saunders might be the odd guy out with this latest move.  The Yankees made an overture to Seattle this week on Dustin Ackley and were told that Ackley is flat out NOT available.  That means Saunders is not sitting pretty. Saunders is an outstanding defender just like Gutierrez, but Saunders has never been able to hit consistently for any length of time.  Saunders has a career batting average of .224 and doesn’t even have an career OBO above .300. By bringing in Gutierrez, the M’s still have an outstanding defensive outfielder who can be a late-inning defensive replacement, a guy who can steal a base off the bench,  plus they get someone with a bit more experience with a veteran presence in the dugout. I don’t look for a platoon situation to develop in center with Ackley and Gutierrez, either.  Ackley bats left, but hits lefties vs. righties equally well.  In fact, he’s hit .250 vs. .259 respectively in his career. Also, Gutierrez has problems hitting guys that come from the opposite side.  He’s a career .218 hitter against all lefties and hits a woeful .157 career against lefty starters. Saunders now trade bait? It would appear that the Mariners are now in a position to trade or release Michael Saunders unless of course they decide to keep five outfielders on their major league roster. I just don’t see that happening.  It’s time to say goodnight, Michael. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MARINERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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