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December 10, 2008 at 10:47 PM

Gutierrez to play center field

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Been getting lots of phone calls today for The Geoff Baker Show, which will air a little later than usual tonight to accomodate what’s transpired. But fear not. It’s coming.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, seen on the far right in the photo above, next to Mets counterpart Omar Minaya and Mark Shapiro of the Indians (Mariners PR rep Tim Hevley is up at the podium acting as MC) left no doubt tonight that newly-acquired Cleveland Indians outfielder Franklin Gutierrez will be his center fielder next season. Zduriencik admitted this trade does little to address the team’s power needs, but says it fills a huge gap in the club’s outfield defense.
“We acquired this guy because we think that this guy can play center field,” Zduriencik said of Gutierrez. “We think he’s one of the better outfielders in the major leagues. He’s still young and there’s still upside to him. We look forward to watching this kid get a chance to play every day center field, in a big ballpark, where he’s really going to have a chance to showcase his skills.”
See video of some of tonight’s announcement down below.

Minaya termed the deal “a pure baseball trade” and wanted Mets fans who’d been prodding him in the streets of New York to know he’d finally fixed their bullpen. That’s what happens when you add J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez to the same relief staff within 24 hours. Not to mention Sean Green. The Mets just pulled off a big-time move.
And the M’s got a lot of bodies in return.
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Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, above, was all smiles as he watched his new GM pull off a blockbuster as his first career trade. As Zduriencik said, this is not about hitting — though he expects Gutierrez to grow offensively as he matures. This is about defense. All those folks in the blogosphere who’ve been screaming about the outfield defense for years will now get to see what they’ve been asking for. Gutierrez has shown .800 OPS potential in Class AAA — which is great for a center fielder — but he’s all about the glove, really. The only true power source in this outfield, which also has the solid glove of Ichiro in right, will have to come from left field if the team decides to add some.
Zduriencik said the team has not given up entirely on re-signing Raul Ibanez, and even had a conversation with one of his representatives. But that’s a long way off from coming to fruition right now. A lot could depend on how the marketplace treats Ibanez.
What does all this mean for Brandon Morrow? Does it mean he’s now destined to replace Putz as the team’s closer? Not necessarily, Zduriencik said, adding that nothing has been determined as of yet.
“I do reserve the right to say that we have a new manager,” Zduriencik said. “We have new pitching coaches and a whole new staff. So, for me to sit here and dictate what’s going to happen on that field is not correct. That’s not necessarily my job. My job is to lead and guide and I’m certainly going to listen to everything they have to say. And when the day is said and done, they will have their conversations, they will have their hands on Brandon…and will decide exactly what makes this club better.”
Zduriencik had been discussing a two-team Putz deal with Minaya after an earlier three-team trade with Detroit and Tampa Bay fell through. But Zduriencik needed a center fielder and told Minaya their talks were not going to get anywhere unless he could find him one.
Minaya called up Shapiro, who knew Zduriencik from his early days breaking into baseball. Minaya talked to Shapiro about Gutierrez, got him and Zduriencik together, and the deal went forward. But Minaya still had to cough up one final piece. Zduriencik was sending Jeremy Reed to New York as part of the package and wanted another outfielder back.
That’s where Chavez was added in. Though he’s a natural center fielder, Zduriencik figures he can probably do well playing the spacious left field at Safeco Field. If not as an everyday player, then as a fourth outfielder. There are still some moves that could come between now and spring training. Nothing has been decided.

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