The Dodgers seemed to have an endless amount of outfielders during the early and mid 2000s, with a few of them already covered in this series before. This time it’s one who never had the opportunity to join that run of outfielders before returning to the organization more than a decade later, as well as another one of the seemingly endless Mikes the team has had over the years.
While Gutierrez is still only a little more than five years removed from being a Dodger, the path to Los Angeles actually began back in 2000 when the Dodgers signed him as a free agent out of Venezuela at 17 years old.
Beginning his professional career in 2001 for the Dodgers in the Gulf Coast League (along with Edwin Jackson), Gutierrez slashed .269/.324/.389/.713 in 56 games while primarily playing in left field. Moving up to the Single-A South Georgia Waves in 2002, along with a two-game stretch in Triple-A Las Vegas, Gutierrez improved to .283/.345/.456/.800 in 94 games while making the shift to center field.
That 2002 season started Gutierrez’s push up the ranks of the organization as he opened 2003 ranked 16th among Dodger prospects from Baseball America. Hitting .287/.351/.524/.875 between High-A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville, Gutierrez was named a First Team Minor League All-Star by Baseball America, a Florida State League All-Star and Minor League High-A All-Star. Named to the 2003 Futures Team, Gutierrez finished with an RBI and two of the World Team’s two hits. Making the leap up to Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect in the organization and No. 31 in all of baseball (one spot behind his future teammate Felix Hernandez), Gutierrez became the Dodgers top ranked position prospect.
With Paul DePodesta taking over in February 2004, one of the first moves he made was to send Gutierrez to Cleveland with Andrew Brown for Milton Bradley. Just a few months earlier Dan Evans had elected not to send Gutierrez to Milwaukee in a deal that would have brought back impending free agent Richie Sexson. After using Shawn Green, Dave Roberts, Brian Jordan, Jeromy Burnitz, Mike Kinkade (more on him below), Rickey Henderson, Wilkin Ruan, Jason Romano, Chad Hermansen and Bubba Crosby in the outfield during the 2003 season, DePodesta brought in Jason Grabowski, Jayson Werth and Bradley in the span of six days from March 29 to April 3 to join Roberts and the previously acquired Juan Encarnacion, while Green made the move to first base.
When he wasn’t being a complete disaster of a person, Bradley slashed .275/.358/.446/.804 in 216 games and 913 plate appearances for the Dodgers before being sent to Oakland for Andre Ethier. Meanwhile, Gutierrez became Cleveland’s No. 3 prospect ahead of 2005, and still ranked No. 54 in all of baseball. Making his major league debut in September 2005, Gutierrez played for Cleveland through the 2008 season before going to Seattle in a three-team, 12-player deal. He would then spend seven major league seasons and eight years total there, winning a Gold Glove in 2010 but suffering a series of maladies, included missing all of 2014.
Managing to play just 330 games across the final six years with the Mariners, Gutierrez finally returned to the Dodgers on a one-year, $2.6 million contract in February 2017.
Playing 17 games in left field, and 35 total, Gutierrez hit .232/.317/.339/.657 with one homer run in 63 plate appearances. The ankylosing spondylitis that caused Gutierrez to miss all of the 2014 season unfortunately ended his season in June, and effectively ended his 17-year run between the minors and majors.
Kinkade hadn’t really been on my list of players to go over, but this is the second or third time his name has come up when I’ve written this series.
An Olympic Gold Medalist from the 2000 Games in Sydney, Kinkade bounced from Milwaukee to the New York Mets to Baltimore from 1998 to 2001. Unable to find space to keep him on the 40-man roster after he slashed .275/.345/.381/.726 across 177 plate appearances in 2001, the Orioles outrighted Kinkade to Triple-A and the 28-year-old elected for free agency.
Signing Kinkade to a minor-league deal in January 2002, the Dodgers used him as a backup to Eric Karros at first base and Brian Jordan in left field for 37 games. Slashing .380/.483/.600/1.083, Kinkade also finished the year .350/.435/.450/.885 as a pinch hitter. One of those pinch hit appearances came with two outs in the top of the 9th against the Padres in late September. After Dave Hansen entered to hit for Paul Quantrill, Kinkade took Hansen’s spot following a pitching change. Singling to center to score Mark Grudzielanek, Kinkade drove home the go-ahead run, with Eric Gagne locking down the victory in the bottom of the inning. While the win didn’t ultimately matter with the Dodgers finishing 3.5 behind the Giants for the Wild Card, Kinkade’s run in the majors and .342/.433/.575/1.008 line in 74 games for Triple-A Las Vegas led to him competing for a utility role in 2003.
Offering past experience at first, third, left field and right field after coming up as a catcher, Kinkade spent the entire season in the majors and made 36 starts, primarily in left field as Brian Jordan went down for the season in late June. However, a .216/.355/.352/.687 line in his 191 plate appearances didn’t include many highlights other than finishing the year with 16 hit by pitches. After the Dodgers added Jeromy Burnitz from the New York Mets on July 14, Kinkade started just six more games and slashed .108/.283/.162/.445 in 30 games total compared to a .248/.352/.408/.760 line in his 58 games and 30 starts prior to the trade.
Kinkade ended up released in early December, before the change to DePodesta and additions of all those outfielders. After a year in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers, Kinkade returned to the states for the 2005 season and signed with Cleveland. That began a stretch of playing for five organizations in four years, primarily in Triple-A. Joining the Florida Marlins for 2006, the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees in 2007 and the Mariners in 2008, Kinkade did produce an OPS of .840 or better for the first the first three seasons before falling to .680 with Tacoma in 2008.