Dodgers to sign Franklin Gutierrez, finally make me happy

(Via)

I’ll admit, when former Dodgers — especially good prospects — become available, I have an unusual desire for the team to bring them back. Tonight, that happened in the form of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

That’ll play. It’s a minimal investment for a guy who hit left-handed pitching well last season (143 wRC+), and has over the course of his career (129 wRC+).

You’ll recall he was the main piece (Andrew Brown being the other player) the Dodgers sent to Cleveland at the end of Spring Training in 2004 for Milton Bradley. It was the right move at the time, but in hindsight, it would have been better to hold onto Gutierrez. Then again, the Dodgers wouldn’t have been able to snag Andre Ethier from the A’s for Bradley two offseasons later, so let’s call it quits.

Back in November 2013, on that dumb blog I used to run, I wrote that the Dodgers should bring back their former international signee.

Enter Franklin Gutierrez. The Dodgers sent him to Cleveland just before the 2004 season with Andrew Brown for Milton Bradley. I wasn’t upset he got traded because Bradley was productive with the Dodgers, when he was on the field. It ended up as a good deal for the Dodgers, as they landed Andre Ethier for Bradley and Antonio Perez a couple years later. I’ve been trying to ‘acquire’ Gutierrez since last winter, when Ethier was close to being traded to the Mariners. Alas, no deal was struck. Now a free agent, there’s no need to make a trade to acquire him. Gutierrez, 31 in February, has played in 173 games in the last three years — total. So, why would I want the Dodgers to sign a guy like this? Well, my affinity is part of it, but I also think Gutierrez is the perfect fourth outfielder for the Dodgers.

Surprisingly, he isn’t totally inept with the bat. He only has a .238/.276/.363 triple slash in the last three injury-riddled years, but he also popped 10 home runs in 145 at-bats in 2013. From 2007 through 2010, he triple slashed .261/.317/.403 and averaged 13 home runs in that time. As a fourth outfielder with the Dodgers, that’s more than an acceptable offensive output. And he’s nails against left-handed pitching. For his career, he owns a .287/.344/.474 triple slash with a 25.3 AB/HR rate. Against righties, he has a .242/.290/.356 triple slash and almost double the AB/HR rate (48.6). Safe to say, he’d see most of his action against left-handed pitching. If Crawford or Ethier are still around, he could be a nice spot-starter for whoever is playing left field. He could be somewhat effective against right-handed pitchers, provided he plays sparingly against them.

Unfortunately for Gutierrez, he missed the entire 2014 season after experience gastrointestinal/autoimmune issues that had bothered him the season before. Despite that, he came back strong in 2015 and ’16 to hit a combined .265/.339/.520 with a 135 wRC+ in 472 plate appearances. He has 29 home runs in the last two seasons, and Gutierrez has evolved from more of a contact-oriented hitter to a power-first guy. With that, his swinging strike rate has topped 11.4 percent (or more) for three consecutive seasons. Conversely, his strikeout rate is 29.2 percent in the same time.

Once a premium defender in center field, Gutierrez is no longer that guy. He’s not even average, so bringing him in is strictly for him to be play in the corner spots. But, the signing says some things about the Dodgers’ current corner outfield options.

This might say the most about Trayce Thompson‘s status. His progression from two fractured bones in his back has been slow, which isn’t unexpected. Seeing as Thompson and Gutierrez are basically the same type of player, I’m guessing the Dodgers aren’t counting on Thompson being ready for Opening Day. That makes Gutierrez’s signing make a lot more sense.

Gutierrez’s signing makes Darin Ruf and Scott Van Slyke‘s future a in Los Angeles a little cloudy. Ruf is basically a worse version of Van Slyke, so he might not survive the 40-man roster crunch (remember, Sergio Romo still needs to be added at some point). That could work itself out if Yimi Garcia (out for 2017 after having Tommy John surgery) and Thompson or a guy like Hyun-Jin Ryu get transferred to the 60-day disabled list (earliest day is Feb. 17).

Ethier and Andrew Toles should be the left-handed part of the left field platoon. It’ll probably be Ethier if he’s healthy, as Toles can go back to Triple-A for some more seasoning. An Ethier/Gutierrez platoon could be quite productive if both players are healthy. If they falter, there are backup options available. Also, if Yasiel Puig falters in right field or has more hamstring issues, Gutierrez could find himself out there against left-handed pitching as well.

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For $3 million, the risk is minimal for the Dodgers, and Gutierrez destroys left-handed pitching. After failing to land Brian Dozier, the Dodgers nabbed Logan Forsythe (who is good, but not as good against LHP as Dozier) and Gutierrez to improve against southpaws. This is a good signing, and I’m happy a former blue chip Dodger prospect is back in Blue.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.