large_franklin_gutierrez_seattle_marinersWhile fans would love to see something bigger and better, at least eventually, it looks like the Seattle Mariners are turning to a familiar face to fill an outfield role for next season. Former Gold Glove winner Franklin Gutierrez is reportedly close to returning to the club with which he’s spent the past five seasons.

There’s yet to be official confirmation of a deal at this time, but there had been rumors both parties were interested in a reunion. Tuesday’s reports came via Twitter from’s Jon Morosi:

The 30-year old hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and has appeared in just 173 games over the past three years. Any deal for Gutierrez would likely be an incentive laden, one-year pact that may have a club option attached. While he’s far from the right-handed power bat the Mariners desperately need, he still hits left-handed pitching well enough and is more capable of patrolling the spacious Safeco Field than most. Gutierrez has put up a .255/.305/.383 line in his tenure with the M’s and has been a consistent, plus defender when he’s been able to stay on the field.

Gutierrez figures to be a depth piece at this time as he can’t be counted on to stay healthy long enough to be much more. Currently, the M’s have Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley slated to cover the bulk of the center field duties in 2014, but an ideal scenario has one of them occupying a corner outfield spot, at least part of the time, where each profiles better defensively. It also appears that part of the plan to have Logan Morrison see time in left field, so the more legitimate options the club adds the better, since Morrison belongs at first base.

PI’s Alex Carson likes the move so long as there’s another outfielder on the way and the Mariners aim for Gutierrez to be a fourth outfielder to start the upcoming season. As with free agent addition Corey Hart, a one-year deal based on incentives carries minimal risk for the club. The only issue however, is that while Hart and Gutierrez could represent impact moves, the Mariners still should be looking to make another significant upgrade to the lineup.

The free agent outfield market has slimmed mightily with options such as Chris Young and Marlon Byrd finding new employers already. Rick Ankiel and Grady Sizemore represent the best of the remaining centerfielders on the open market, but like Gutierrez, there’s significant injury baggage with both. The Mariners clearly have the inside track on Gutierrez’s medicals and his familiarity with the organization makes him a more attractive option than, say, Seattle-area native Sizemore.

There’s nothing wrong with picking up Gutierrez for another season, let’s just hope the club has a bigger fish they’re trying to hook in terms of the outfield.

Remaining Free Agent Outfielders
Jeff Baker
Jason Bay
Roger Bernadina (CF)
Brennan Boesch
Shin-Soo Choo
Chris Coghlan
Tyler Colvin
Trevor Crowe (CF)
Chris Dickerson
Jeff Francoeur
Sam Fuld
Reed Johnson
Nelson Cruz
Raul Ibanez
Laynce Nixx
Xavier Paul
Juan Pierre (CF)
Derrick Robinson
Andres Torres
Delmon Young
DeWayne Wise

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. He now serves as the Executive Copy Editor at Data Skrive, a tech company that manipulates data to provide automated content to clients including the AP, BetMGM, USA Today, and ESPN. Find Jason's baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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