By Shannon Drayer
Multiple team sources confirm what FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi reported Tuesday night: the Mariners are close to signing Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year major-league contract. The announcement could come as soon as Wednesday.
Gutierrez's role will be determined by his health and how much he can get on the field. In August he told reporters that he had been diagnosed with the inflammatory condition called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). At that point he had been on medication to treat it for three months. He told me that his doctors told him it would take six months for the drugs to take full effect. In September he played in 19 games and appeared to be making progress.
Injuries have limited Franklin Gutierrez to 173 games over the past three years. (AP)
In talking with both medical professionals and someone who has the condition, my understanding is that with AS, a really bad day can pop up out of the blue but generally the medication is quite effective at managing the pain and stiffness. People with AS are generally more susceptible to illness, however.
I am beyond being optimistic about a healthy Gutierrez being on the field for a significant number of days in a season. I have gotten my hopes up far to many times and he has teased us far too many times with what he can do both offensively and defensively when healthy. For this post I am going with the assumption he is healthy today and maybe tomorrow. I am replacing optimism with the possibility of pleasant surprise.
Adding Gutierrez means someone has to go. It has been a foregone conclusion that someone will be traded but now there is excess in both the infield and outfield after Seattle added Logan Morrison as well. General manager Jack Zduriencik has said that he will let "the kids" Brad Miller and Nick Franklin battle it out at shortstop, but now we could have an outfield battle as well.
Lloyd McClendon said recently that he would rotate a number of players through the DH position rather than go with just one. There is room for six outfielders (counting Hart as an OF) if they choose to go that way but they may prefer to get a young outfielder more work at Triple-A instead. They could chose to go with just two of Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and Abraham Almonte.
This is assuming no one is traded, which in my book wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. The Mariners shouldn't make a trade because they feel they have to. All players involved in position battles have options remaining. If they are able to get a useful piece, something they need now, by all means, make a trade. But if not, hang on to everyone and let them battle it out. It would be good for all parties involved.
Take the best players out of spring training and send the others to Triple-A. Let the victors settle in but let those in Tacoma push them. It is called depth and it is something this team has not had the last two years. Maybe Franklin in Triple-A makes Miller better at the big-league level or vice versa. We haven't seen these young players pushed at the big-league level. With the exception of Almonte they have all had more than get-your-feet-wet-experience at the big-league level. Now it should be game-on time.
This could be a very interesting spring for the Mariners.