Don’t slap his hands too hard, fellas.
Pretty often – maybe more often than it should – a move comes along that is a pretty good dipstick for a team’s fan base. There are pretty good reasons to want Franklin Gutierrez back in a Mariners roster at the right price, and there are pretty good reasons to want the Mariners to simply recreate this scene from A Christmas Story, with Guti as the receiving end of Santa’s boot. How you feel about this move may be an indicator of how you feel about life. I’ve probably written that recently.
The thing is, Gutierrez has been injured a lot. Like a LOT. He’s missed more than 300 games in the past three seasons, almost exclusively as a result of injury or illness. Were it not for his brilliant 2009 season, a season in which he created a ton of surplus value with his outfield defense alone, a Gutierrez injury may not be as difficult to stomach. He came to Seattle in the trade that sent J.J. Putz to the New York Mets, and while neither team has ended up with a star out of the deal, Gutierrez came very close in 2009.
If it weren’t for his brilliant 2009, however, the team wouldn’t have paid him more than $20 million over the last four years. Disappointment is, or at least should be proportionate with assumed risk. The Mariners assumed a fair amount of risk when they signed Gutierrez to an extension. The probability that they’d come out on the losing end of that contract was reasonably low, but probability, by definition, has some less than favorable outcomes. Gutierrez has been a less than favorable outcome.
But he’s cheap. Reports have Guti receiving $1 million guaranteed with potential for his salary to reach $3 million if he reaches certain incentives. Gutierrez cost one-seventh of what Chris Young cost. He cost one-sixtieth of Curtis Granderson, and Granderson played only 20 more games than Gutierrez in 2013. He cost one-one-hundred-and-fifty-eighth of Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ellsbury has missed 264 games in the past four years.
Players get injured. Some get injured less often than others, but when players get injured it normally doesn’t completely destroy their value. Franklin Gutierrez will make a half-million more than an average rookie. As far as marginal cost goes, I could add a bunch more italicized, written-out fractions, but I want you to keep reading.
The role expected for Gutierrez is that of a part-time player, though he’s good enough that I assume he’ll be given more opportunities the more his body allows it. A degree of probability exists that Gutierrez doesn’t make it out of spring training. A degree of probability exists that Gutierrez plays 162 games in 2014. I’d probably bet on something in the middle, but I’m fairly confident that Gutierrez-plus-Abraham -Almonte is worth more than spending $15 million annually on Nelson Cruz. Even if it’s not worth more, the team still has $14 million of that salary available in 2014, and all $15 million available for the length of a presumed Cruz contract.
While this offseason started with the Mariners signing Willie Bloomquist, then Robinson Cano for what some think is too much money, to the napalming of all remaining credibility the front office may have had, signings of Corey Hart, Franklin Gutierrez, the trade for Logan Morrison, and that the team hasn’t (yet) spent huge on a “proven closer,” and the latter half are all smart moves.
That of course doesn’t mean that they are good moves. Good is a function of results, and results are something that no front office has control over. But smart moves yield good results more than dumb moves.