Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners reach one-year deal to retain veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez

After years of injury and health problems, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez hit a career-high .292 with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 59 games following his June 24 promotion from Triple-A Tacoma.
After years of injury and health problems, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez hit a career-high .292 with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 59 games following his June 24 promotion from Triple-A Tacoma. The Associated Press

Franklin Gutierrez is sticking around for at least one more year.

The Seattle Mariners reached agreement Wednesday with the veteran outfielder on a one-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Gutierrez, 32, resurrected his career last season by batting a career-high .292 with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 59 games following his June 24 promotion from Triple-A Tacoma.

It marked a remarkable personal comeback.

Gutierrez did not play in 2014 and missed large portions of the three previous seasons because of chronic inflammation of his spine and sacroiliac joints, which caused pain in the lower back and legs.

“I’m doing great, man,” he said late in the season. “Every time I come here and prepare myself, even if I’m not playing, just prepare myself to be ready in any situation of the game.

“That’s it, man. I’m just enjoying being here again. It always helps when you have a day off. It gives you time to feel better. Your body gets a little rest.”

Gutierrez played 305 games in 2009-10 after being acquired by the Mariners on Dec. 11, 2008 from Cleveland in a three-team trade that involved the New York Mets and 12 players.

The trade turned Gutierrez into a full-time player, and he responded by batting .264 in those two seasons and averaging 15 homers and 67 RBIs. He also won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence in 2010.

Gutierrez began battling the effects of his joint ailment — ankylosing spondylitis — in 2011 along with other injuries. He played just 173 big league games over the next three years.

The Mariners re-signed Gutierrez to a minor-league contract on Jan. 26, 2015.

“I think the one thing that’s missed in all of this,” former manager Lloyd McClendon said, “is Guti’s integrity. He could have come in last year (2014) and tried to suit up and got paid. He didn’t do that.

“He had a guaranteed contract, but he told the club he couldn’t go. I think that gets lost in all of this. He turned down a lot of money last year.”

Signing Gutierrez leaves the Mariners with two openings on their 40-man roster.

RUMORS SWIRLING AT GM MEETINGS

The annual general managers meetings are when baseball’s offseason rumor mill typically revs up — and this year’s gathering, under way in Boca Raton, Florida, is no exception.

It’s also no surprise the Mariners are in the middle of things given that new general manager Jerry Dipoto is on record as saying he wants to revamp his club’s depth through trades.

Some of what’s circulating:

▪ The News Tribune learned the Mariners show continuing interest in free-agent catcher Chris Iannetta as a veteran partner for Mike Zunino.

▪ The Mariners show interest in Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post. Sherman also says the Yankees have scouted James Paxton in the Arizona Fall League.

▪ Dipoto’s quest to add athleticism to the outfield could, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, prompt trade interest with the Cardinals for Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos; the Rangers for Leonys Martin; or the Red Sox for Jackie Bradley Jr.

▪ If the Mariners choose to pursue a free agent — which doesn’t appear to be Dipoto’s preferred route — a possibility is Gerardo Parra, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

That’s a lot to chew on.

Start with Iannetta, whom Dipoto acquired after the 2011 season from Colorado as one of his first moves after becoming the Angels’ general manager.

Iannetta, 32, slumped badly last season in finishing with a .188 average in 92 games, but he batted .238 over the three previous seasons with a .357 on-base percentage.

Gardner, 32, would be an ideal fit in the Mariners’ quest for top-of-the-lineup speed to pair with shortstop Ketel Marte. He also adds enviable on-base and defensive abilities.

The Yankees positioned themselves Wednesday to trade Gardner by acquiring outfielder Aaron Hicks from Minnesota for catcher John Ryan Murphy.

The question for the Mariners is whether Gardner can maintain his skills as he ages through his mid-30s because he is guaranteed either $39 million or $49.5 million over the next three years — the difference being a $12.5 million option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout.

The Mariners must also weigh whether Paxton, who just turned 27, will ever reach his high-end potential. Injuries derailed him for much of the last two seasons and surfaced at times in his minor league career.

The recent trade that netted right-hander Nathan Karns from Tampa Bay helped the Mariners’ rotation depth, but they might need to keep free-agent Hisashi Iwakuma to feel sufficiently comfortable to surrender Paxton.

Iwakuma is expected to reject the Mariners’ one-year qualifying offer of $15.8 million prior to Friday’s deadline, but the predominant view within the industry is he and the Mariners will eventually reach an agreement.

Dipoto was the interim general manager at Arizona in 2011 when Parra won his first Gold Glove for defensive excellence and remains a big fan.

“He can really play defense,” Dipoto told Morosi. “He can really throw. And he can rake right-handed pitching.”

Parra, 28, wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded last July from Milwaukee to Baltimore. That means signing him won’t come at the additional cost of a lost draft pick.

But that unprotected status is also likely to goose the market. Parra made $6.23 million last season while batting .291 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs in 115 games for the Brewers and Orioles.

Jay, 30, would be a short-term fix because he will be eligible for free agency after next season. But he comes at a known cost of $6.22 million in concluding a two-year contract signed last February.

While Jay is generally viewed as a superior defensive player, he is likely to be available because of concern over a wrist injury that zapped his production.

He slipped to a slash of .210/.306/.257 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 79 games from previous career averages of .295/.359/.396.

Bourjos, 28, stepped in as Jay’s primary replacement — and it didn’t go particularly well. Bourjos didn’t hit, which has been his career-long failing, and advanced metrics suggest his defense slipped notably.

That makes him a non-tender possibility in December (if not sooner).

Dipoto had Bourjos in Anaheim before sending him to the Cardinals in a trade after the 2013 season. Bourjos is eligible for arbitration after making $1.65 million and is on track to reach free agency after next season.

The Mariners are familiar with Martin, a 27-year-old who was the Rangers’ regular center fielder for 2 1/2 seasons before losing his job this season to Delino DeShields Jr.

Martin also angered the Rangers by failing to report to the Instructional League. So he’s available.

While Martin’s production dipped significantly this season to .219/.264/.313, his defensive play remained strong. If he bounces back to his 2013-14 form — .268/.319/.374 — he’d be a plus.

Martin also comes with club control. He is a first-time eligible for arbitration this winter after making $4.75 million and won’t reach free agency for three more years.

As for Bradley, it’s unclear yet whether the Red Sox are willing to move him. If so, he’s an interesting possibility because his production ticked up significantly this season — albeit in just 74 games.

Bradley would also be a relatively cheap option because he’s not yet eligible for arbitration.

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