Center Field: Franklin Gutierrez #21
29 years old; Experience: seven years
In 2010, the Mariners gave a four year extension to Franklin "Death to Flying Things" Gutierrez worth $20.5 million. Gutierrez had just put together an incredibly solid welcoming party to the Seattle Mariners, averaging .283 and hitting 18 homeruns while leading every single major league baseball player in virtually all defensive metrics. It seemed that not only had the Mariners acquired the center field of the future from the Indians, but they had locked him up to an incredibly friendly deal.
The year is now 2012, and the deal still seems pretty friendly, if anything because it isn't costing the team too much money in the grand scheme of things. But life hasn't been as friendly to Gutierrez. Last year Guti was sapped by a stomach ailment that left him a fragile shell of who he used to be. It took some time for Guti to come back, and although he was still able to run amok in center field, at the plate he was borderline worthless. After averaging 15 home runs in 629 plate appearances in a Mariners uniform, Guti hit one dinger last year in over 300 trips to the plate. The average was down to a paltry .224 (not the worst on the team woo hoo!!!!) and it was clear that whatever had afflicted him throughout the year had really taken a physical toll on his strength.
So all signs were pointing up when reports started trickling in that Gutierrez had put on 15 pounds of solid muscle mass. Just as everyone was getting ready to update his nickname to The Hulkster, Guti had a slight tear of a pectoral muscle and there went spring training and a bit of the beginning of the season. Luckily the injury isn't as bad as initially expected so we don't have to see Michael Saunders wallowing out in the outfield for too long, but it was still a blow. Most people remember that Guiterrez can hit. I'm sure that Guti even remembers the day when he could hit. And if Guti regains his 2009 form, his .280 average and 20 home runs will be a nice complement to a team full of players who might possibly be able to do that (Ackley, Carp, Smoak, Jesus Montero, Chone Figgins - I'm looking at you). If anything, and Guti's 2009 season was truly an aberration, then at least he is still an above average defender when he takes naps out in the field. The Mariners pitchers need all the help they can get in making sure the other team doesn't score more than two runs a game, and no player was better at ensuring that than Franklin Gutierrez.