The M’s made two good moves yesterday. They avoided a possible arbitration situation with Charlie Furbush by signing him to a one year deal worth $750,000. This is $246,000 more than last season.
The M’s also signed Franklin Gutierrez, even after declining the club option for 2014. The 2014 club option would have been worth $7 million, and this contract is worth $1 million, with playing-time incentives up to $2 million.
The Furbush deal was practically guaranteed to happen. There was 100% chance of him playing for the Mariners next year from the get go, but I, like some other people, assumed Franklin was going to be gone after three injury-plagued seasons.
However, Jack Zduriencik hinted a couple of weeks ago that despite declining the club option for 2014, that he was still interested in bringing back Franklin Gutierrez.
This is a low-risk, high-reward signing.
Gutierrez is only 30 years old. If he had not been injured the last 3 years, he would have just reached the peak of his prime, and would be likely to stay there for at least one or two more seasons.
I like this deal. Franklin Gutierrez has the potential to be a truly great baseball player.
In 2009, at age 26, Franklin produced a WAR of 6.0. To put that in perspective, Robinson Cano’s WAR in 2009 was only 4.0. In 2010, despite playing 152 games, his WAR regressed to 1.9. In 2010, he won a Gold Glove for outfield. Now, will Guti put up a 6.0 WAR in 2014? I would be willing to bet $100 that he won’t come even close to that. But is a 3.0-3.5 WAR possible?
The implications of this signing are quite large. The M’s have enough outfielders for an entire season now. Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez, Nick Franklin, and Abraham Almonte are all capable enough outfielders. This makes a few players expendable. Justin Smoak is now expendable. Ackley and Saunders are both expendable. Nick Franklin is expendable.
Justin Smoak, in my opinion, is finished with the Mariners. He simply has not performed well enough to stick around with the Mariners any longer. He needs a change of scenery and the Mariners are overloaded at the 1B/DH position. There are several potential suitors for Smoak.
Michael Saunders also has major trade value at the moment. He has produced 3.3 total WAR over the last two years, and since he is still young at only 27, there is still some room for development. Again, a change of scenery may be all he needs to become an above average major league player.
I would like to see Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin stay around for a while longer. Ackley had a tremendous second half in 2013, and Nick Franklin was in contention for the Rookie of the Year award before falling into a second half slump. I want Ackley around for at least 1 more year. Nick Franklin’s defensive slot was given to Robinson Cano, so there will be a need to find him a spot in the outfield or at shortstop.
At this point, I hope the M’s outfield looks to shape up like this for most games: Nick Franklin LF, Franklin Gutierrez CF, Dustin Ackley RF. This would leave Logan Morrison 1B duties and Corey Hart DH duties. Willie Bloomquist will be the utility player and give guys breaks when they need them. This scenario means Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders will be traded.
Anyway, I digress. The M’s lineup looks to be shaping up slightly below average defensively, unless Gutierrez can have an absurd year in center field, which would essentially cancel out everyone else’s subpar defensive play. The offense, assuming progression from Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, and Logan Morrison, looks like it could finally break into the top half of the Majors. But that’s a lot of assumptions.
Let’s just wait and see and hope Santa brings us Matt Kemp as a late Christmas present, but for now, the M’s are making moves, and that’s something to rejoice in and of itself.