By Shannon Drayer
The Mariners announced Wednesday they have signed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year contract.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the initial reports of a $1 million base salary and the possibility of earning $2 million more in incentives have been confirmed. The Mariners turned down a $7 million club option for Gutierrez last month.
Gutierrez said other teams, including the Indians, were interested in signing him but he chose to wait for the Mariners' call, which came during the winter meetings.
Franklin Gutierrez says he jumped at the chance to return to Seattle, where he's spent the past five seasons. (AP)
Gutierrez has spent an injury-plagued five years with the Mariners, a tenure that started out strong as he missed just 19 games in his first two years and picked up Gold Glove honors in 2010. In 2009 he was the team's top-ranked player according to WAR. From 2011-2013, however, he missed 313 of the 486 games the team played.
In August he told reporters he had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondilits, an inflammatory condition that left him with tight legs and back pain. While it is a condition that he will have to deal with for the rest of his life, he said he feels it is more under control.
"It was very important to find out what I had," he said Wednesday. "Now I have to try and manage this. I am under a medication that is working very well. I am feeling more normal right now and just trying to work on my body to be ready for spring training."
Getting ready for spring training will not involve any winter ball. Gutierrez had considered playing in Venezuela but decided against it and has spent the majority of the offseason training at his home in Florida. After a frustrating year of stints on the disabled list, rehab assignments and false starts on comeback attempts, he seemed somewhat anxious to get back out on the field.
"I think it is more about proving to myself that I can be more of the same player I was before," he said. "The thing that I have, it's not like I can play every day now but I feel like I can help my team. The past season they used me the last month playing three or four times a week and it works that way."
Gutierrez played in 19 games in September but wasn't ready to make any guesses as to how much he could play now without actually getting out on the field first. Where he plays in the outfield is not an issue.
"I can play all three positions," he said. "I think it creates more possibility to be in the lineup. Right now I am able to play wherever they need me, and that is important."
He is looking forward to the upcoming season, not just to see what he can do, but what the team with its new additions. Gutierrez, like many, was shocked to hear the team had signed second baseman Robinson Cano.
"Wow," he said of Cano. "It's a great addition for any team. He is an excellent player. Huge player. I am really glad he is here. I know he is going to help the team. Everyone is going to do their jobs to try and push this team to the playoffs. I know it is a lot of expectations but we need to go step by step.
"It feels like this year is going to be different. I feel it in my heart that we are going to do better than the past seasons."