We don’t know a whole lot about injuries, relative to other things. Aging curve models are pretty tried and true by this point, and strikeouts and walks are known to be the best indicators of future ERA. But when it comes to projecting who will be injured, and how, and for how long, we’re all but in the dark. However, this is not to say that there aren’t certain specific players who have shown an uncanny susceptibility to injury. One of those players is Franklin Gutierrez. We’re two days into spring training, and Franklin Gutierrez is out for the year.
These are words you more or less expected to be reading at some point this season. The exact details were unknowable, but the general idea has been clear for years – we’ve come to expect Guti’s various injuries and ailments, to the point where anyone expecting more than zero plate appearances from him in any given year is just kidding themselves. Turns out that zero is the exact number of plate appearances he’s going to give the M’s in 2014, because his stomach is back to being what it is. A black pit of death, that is. Guti’s gastrointestinal issues have landed him on the restricted list because he’s too sick to play baseball, and needs to focus on simply getting healthy enough to have a normal life.
For the Mariners, this is a bigger blow than it should be. Given the team’s extreme lack of depth, Guti was expected to be an important bench player whenever available. It turns out “whenever” is now “never,” and the Mariners are sorely lacking a competent replacement for his production. This opens the door a little more for Abraham Almonte to make the team, and while Almonte is an interesting guy and likely a good player, he’s not going to play plus-plus defense or slug .500, which are both amazing things that Guti has done in recent years, albeit not during any one year. This also opens the door a little more for Nelson Cruz to make the team as a free agent expenditure, and while opinions remain split on Cruz, he’s certainly not the player that a healthy Gutierrez is.
Losing Franklin Gutierrez for the year is a reminder that this Mariners team is made up largely of wild cards. Scott Baker, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison are all supposed to be contributors this year, but so was Guti. All these guys with upside and injury risks are just that, and it’s important to remember that the risk factor is very real with this type of player. With any type of player, really. Hisashi Iwakuma was the picture of health the last two years, but now his finger is hurt and he’s questionable for the start of the season. Taijuan Walker‘s shoulder hurts, but that’s another post for another time.
We can’t accurately project who will be healthy and who will be ruled out for the year on the second day of spring training. With Franklin Gutierrez, the story just gets sadder and sadder, and this may be the end of him as a professional athlete. For all he’s gone through, this appears to be a new low. Baseball can be a lot of things, but more often than we’d like, it’s just cruel.