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August 2, 2011 at 8:32 AM

Franklin Gutierrez now on-notice after latest Mariners trades

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We’ll have Geoff Baker Live! from FX McRory’s tonight at our usual 6:10 p.m. PT start time. Looking forward to it. Hope you all caught my Talkin Baseball segment on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show. At one point, I mention the name Anthony Varvaro, but clearly meant to say Anthony Vazquez. Too many Anthonys on my mind, between Casey Anthony and Mark Anthony and all the others…
Franklin Gutierrez went 1-for-4 with a double last night, upping his batting average to .195 and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage to .475. Insert comments here.
Meanwhile, down in Class AAA Tacoma, newly-acquired Trayvon Robinson started in center field for the Rainiers and went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. You don’t have to be a genius to put two and two together here. Don’t have to be paranoid, if you’re Gutierrez, to be hearing the footsteps.
What Gutierrez has done so far this season at the plate will not keep him a major league regular beyond this season. In fact, what he’s done the last two-plus seasons won’t.
The Mariners keep saying it isn’t physical with Gutierrez. That whatever issues his stomach problems caused him in 2010 and 2011, those are pretty much done.
If that’s the case, Gutierrez had best get cracking. Because the trades made this weekend have served to put him on notice.

Even before the Erik Bedard trade that brought Robinson to the Mariners by way of the Dodgers, it was tough not to notice the Casper Wells acquisition. Wells is a guy the M’s would no doubt love to see playing the outfield corners — either in left field as he is right now, or in right when Ichiro leaves at some point if he isn’t renewed after 2012.
But Wells can also play center. And he can play it rather well.
It wasn’t long ago that Wells was being talked about as the Tigers’ center fielder of the future. But that was before the pre-2010 trade that brought Austin Jackson to the Tigers from New York.
So, yeah, Wells can play center in more than just an emergency.
And Robinson is the toolsy type of guy who can play it often as well — at least in AAA.
But he’ll soon be playing it every day in the majors if Gutierrez doesn’t get his act together. This is not meant to take away anything from Gutierrez’s Gold Glove season last year or his outstanding 2009 when he should have first won that award.
But baseball is a two-way game. And unless he can become a multi-dimensional player again with his bat, he is of limited use as an everyday guy. He’s just a taller version of Endy Chavez — a fourth outfielder.
Believe me, the M’s don’t want that. They’d love for Gutierrez to start hitting again the way he did for part of 2009. But they can’t roll the dice on that without a backup plan. And this weekend brought the backup plan here. Between Robinson and Wells, the Mariners now have some Guti insurance.
And if Gutierrez doesn’t show signs of something these next two months, it’s quite possible he gets traded this winter. No, his value would not be at an all-time high. But there would still be value there, with teams recognizing his defensive game and hoping that the bat issues are all stomach-related. Even though the M’s say Gutierrez is over the stomach issues, a large segment of fans and media still believes he’s been adveresly affected by it, either by weight loss or continued discomfort.
In fact, that “ongoing stomach woes” thing — real or imagined at this point — is the best excuse/theory the M’s have working for them trade-wise.
Because the minute Gutierrez steps on a field for them next April and still can’t hit, his value plummets faster than the M’s just did in the AL West standings in July.
Best for everyone — Gutierrez included — that he starts hitting right now.



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