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Franklin Gutierrez Has Rare Arthritic Disease, But Otherwise He’s Good

Franklin Gutierrez

On February 21st Franklin Gutierrez will celebrate his 34th birthday. The Dodgers just signed Gutierrez to a 2.6 million dollar contract last week. What’s important is not that Gutierrez is turning 34, but what he’s had to deal with throughout his career. Now after reading a very interesting article on Fangraphs by Jeff Sullivan we see exactly what he’s gone through and is going through. As Sullivan stated in his article, it’s amazing that Gutierrez is still in baseball and playing at a high level.

Of course we all giggle a bit at the front office’s love of signing injured players, but this is a whole different animal. Gutierrez has had all the usual injuries that us Dodger fans are accustomed to seeing. He’s had the strained hamstrings, left and right. He’s had the strained oblique. He’s even had the stomach gastritis. Expect for half of the Dodger outfield to have stomach gastritis by May. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Here’s the kicker though. According to the story, Gutierrez is suffering from a degenerate arthritis condition known as ankylosing spondylitis.

What is ankylosing spondylitis? Not only is it hard to spell and pronounce it has no cure. Here’s some information on the disease.

Ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss), or AS, is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.

My god.  This is frightening. Read some more. Apparently there is no cure.

AS can also cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in other areas of the body such as the shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, and small joints of the hands and feet. Sometimes the eyes can become involved (known as iritis or uveitis), and — rarely — the lungs and heart can be affected.

That’s what Gutierrez has. I don’t know if you can die from this disease, but it looks very serious. There is no known cure, but there are treatments. You have to manage the pain, and it can affect the entire body, even his eyes. Apparently Gutierrez missed the entire 2014 season getting treatment for this.

I had no idea that Gutierrez had this terrible disease, I’m sure the front office did their home work. Naturally with him being in the American League none of us have seen him play. Before you start roasting the front office for this acquisition, let me explain something.

Embed from Getty Images

The Dodgers signed Gutierrez for a specific reason. They need help hitting left handed pitching, and that is something that Gutierrez does very well. As we saw earlier, He’s smashed southpaws throughout his career. That’s why the Dodgers brought him in. His .846 OPS and 50 career home runs against left handers are the reason why he is here.

So before you blow a gasket about his injuries and rare creepy arthritic degenerate disorder, just remember why he is here. He’s not here to play the outfield. I am sure there will be times throughout the season where the Dodgers will need him to jump in and play a few games in left or right field. If he’s able to he will. But the Dodgers already have plenty of outfielders that can handle left field. With Joc Pederson entrenched in center field, and Yasiel Puig slated to start most of the games in right, there are a plethora of players fighting for playing time at left field. Those players are long time Dodger Andre Ethier, rookie Andrew Toles, Scott Van Slyke, newly acquired Brett Eibner, Darin Ruf, Kike Hernandez, Charlie Culberson, Trayce Thompson and more. All of those guys can play left field. There are more guys in the minors that can play left field as well. Gutierrez isn’t needed for that. You are probably thinking that 2.6 million dollars is a lot of money for a pinch-hitter, but let me remind you that it’s not your money.

His role will be a primary right handed bat off the bench to mash southpaws in the late innings. That’s all he’s going to be used for. I tell you this, if Gutierrez has to start in left field, then something has probably gone terribly wrong and Andre Ethier has fallen into an abyss, or Andrew Toles has been infected with anthrax, and Tracye Thompson was lost at sea.

At one time, Gutierrez was a good outfielder and base runner. If you remember he won a gold glove in 2010, and once stole 25 bases. He’s just not that player anymore. If the Dodgers use him correctly then not only will they get maximum value from him, but they’ll keep him healthier. Hopefully this all works out for the Dodgers.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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Scott Andes
Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

58 thoughts on “Franklin Gutierrez Has Rare Arthritic Disease, But Otherwise He’s Good

  1. I’ve got no problem with signing him since it’s for the one thing he can still do well and since it coincides with the one thing the team DIDN’T do well last season. Plus, it’s nice to see him “come home” to the Dodgers where he began.

  2. Very good article Scott.

    But the way I see it, same as you but a different spin, he’s a right handed bat off the bench but only .280 and he also striking out more than 20% (recently) due to selling out for power. I still say FAZ reached here, even at $2.6 million, and I hope that SVS has a really good spring and that Thompson is heal up by all star break. Both SVS and Thompson can play all 3 outfield positions off the bench and has power too. I see Gutierrez as blocking them.

    1. I think it’s a good deal. There is no guarantee Thompson will be healed by the AS break and that’s more than 1/2 the season gone. He then has to get in shape to hit ML pitching. SVS still has an option left if he doesn’t do well in ST.

      In other news:
      And then there was only TWO. Of the 50 top listed FA this off season, only Weiters(C) and Blanton(RP) are left to be signed. A bit odd to me since P and C are due to report tomorrow.

      1. Richie

        This is on the players, because they are the ones holding out for better deals, and the teams, are just not giving them out.

        1. MJ:
          I understand that, really I do. In the case of Blanton, he wants multiple years and I imagine NO team is willing to do that. That’s why he’s been on the market so long.
          He “cut off his nose to spite his face” and in doing so has probably forfeited an opportunity to get to the WS with us.

    2. YF

      I guess I would feel like you, but Scotty has not been able to stay in the line up, in the last couple years, and Trayce still isn’t ready, even though he went out last year, in the first half of the season.

      But I have to admitt, this is a type of condition, that is far, from being predictable, so Guetierrez might be out, any day of the week.

      But he must have done the job when he was able to play, or no other teams would be out there, trying to sign him.

      And the Giants were one of those other teams out there, trying to sign Guetierrez, and he signed with us, so let’s wait and see, how he performs.

      And if he does his job, it will be even more rewarding to see him do it, with the condition he is dealing with, and that might make a mark, on the other players, as well.

      And I hope both McCarthy and Kazmir, can get there act together, especially after seeing Guetierrez get the best out of his situation, as gloomy as it is.

      Both of these pitchers, have no idea on what it means, to gride it out for the team, and they are getting paid quite a bit more, then most of the players, on the team.

      And I did see a lot of positive remarks, from fans Mariner fans about Guetierrez, so that is always a good thing to hear.

  3. Here’s my spin. FAZ are just generous people (to some). And those include the injured and/or infirm. Look at their acquisitions. Everyone of them are old, injured or a combination of the two. Forsyth is the exception (kinda if we don’t look at his past injuries) but he is nothing more than a journeyman 2nd baseman.


    Let’s think about this particular signing of Gutierrez. So FAZ signs him to a $2.6M one year deal. Who were they bidding against? Why not sign him to a minor league deal?

    The Dodgers platoon lineup against LHP was the problem and now you are going to tell me that this guy (Gutierrez) isn’t really capable of playing full time and that he probably will not be in the lineup vs. lefties as he is just going to pinch hit. Really?
    What if the days that a lefty is pitching are the days that he can’t play or will the Dodgers send a guy to the plate in the late innings of which he is ‘in pain’ upon stepping into the box?
    With the game on the line, what are the odds that the other team leaves their lefty in to face Gutierrez anyway?

    This is a joke. If FAZ did not do their homework and didn’t know this condition existed than they are dumber than I thought they were and that is already pretty dumb.

  4. I’m not even sure that’s Gutierrez’ role. I continue to not see how he can be on the GameDay roster to begin the season. I think the team will go with an 8 man pen more times than not. Barnes, Ethier and Utley/Hernandez are three of those spots. SVS is better against lefties and can spell Gonzalez at first (his splits continue to worry me.)

    That leaves a myriad of players competing for a spot that might not exist. Thus…

    Why not stash him, with his condition, on the DL until he’s needed.

    This is just another way of using $$$ to build depth at a value. Cousins to buying risk as depth with Kazmir and McCarthy.

    1. These guy has more or less been my go to source for prospect evaluations. Calhoun came in at #100 and the Dodgers showed quite well overall as you’d expect. Giants with a relative dismal showing in prospect rankings their fans love to moan about their guys getting overlooked. Major concerns about Calhoun’s defense, but the bat has a ton of intrigue. I also know that Walker Beuhler excited scouts with his brief showing last year.

      On a related note, the best overall pitching prospect, Alex Reyes, may be headed for Tommy John.

    2. Bluto

      Thanks for posting that!

      I was looking at Calhoun’s stats, and what stood out a lot to me, was the fact that he didn’t strike out that much, for a hitter, with his power.

      I am going to listen to this later, so thanks again

  5. Ankylosing spondylitis is worse than you describe. It actually leads to the spine becoming stiff and can actually lead to fusion of some of the spine. It is an inflammatory auto-immune disease. They can treat it with regular anti-inflammatories or can use an immunosuppressant like Embril.

    While I assume that the Dodgers have done their due diligence on Gutierrez’ medical condition, I really don’t understand this signing. Even if Trayce Thompson isn’t going to be ready to start the season, they already don’t have enough room on the 25 man roster for Gutierrez.

    If you assume 5 starters and a 7 man pen, this leaves 13 position players. If you assume that the starting 8 are Grandal, Gonzalez, Forsyth, Seager, Turner, Ethier, Pederson and Puig, you have room for 5 bench players.

    Barnes is backup catcher. They just signed Utley but he doesn’t play SS so they will need a backup from among Hernandez, Taylor and Culberson. I assume it will be Kike. This leaves 2 bench spots. They need a RH backup 1B to spell Gonzalez against tough lefties and it will be either Van Slyke or Ruf, probably the former. If they keep Gutierrez, this means that the only lefty bat on the bench would be Utley and Toles gets sent down.

    I really don’t understand them bringing Utley back and don’t understand the Gutierrez signing.

    1. Gutierrez won’t be a problem for the 25. His condition will allow him to be on the IR when he’s not needed.

      Utley is harder to figure. I read he gives Turner coverage, because Forsythe can play 3rd. As said elsewhere, I think it’s an 8 man pen more times than not.

      If you thought last year had a ton of moves, wait until this one.

    2. Is Gutierrez a guaranteed MLB contract? You’d think at this stage and with his condition, he’d have a minor league deal with the MLB incentive built in.

      1. Exactly. Get this. Gutierrez will make more money this year than he did last year.

        He played for a salary of $1.5M and earned an incentive of $1M for getting more than 250 PA’s. With the Dodgers he supposedly signed a $2.6M base salary with incentives could add another 400K. I’m sure he was running to get that deal signed.

    3. Dodger rick

      Welcome back, I thought it sounded like an auto immune disease, with the meds they use to treat this, but you are right, it is a very serious disease.

      And those auto immune drugs, have there own effects, too.

  6. Sullivan on Fangraphs noted that the Cardinals will need a starter or two if Alex Reyes is going to miss significant time.

    Let’s how the Cardinals front office deals with that if that comes to pass. Will they rush some of their prospects or trade with us for one of our starters? I’d sure like to get a pick from them.

  7. I agree with Chili and Rick. I do not understand the signing of Utley and Gutierrez. I saw Gutierrez play at Seattle. Not much help. What we saw the last half of the season is what Utley is going to do. We do not have enough at bats in ST for all of these guys.

    The outfield looks like Ethier, Gutierrez, Puig, Joc, and SVS. Toles, who I really liked, will be sent down. FAZ loves to hire these over the hill players. All they do is take up a position from a young player. You almost have to keep Taylor now because we have nobody to sub for Seager. Utley cannot play SS. I am not sure Utley can play third at his age. SVS can sub at first. I also do not understand the signing of Ruf and Eibner.

    1. Al,
      Yep. Ruf was acquired in a trade for Kendrick of which Kendrick has had much more success hitting ML pitching. Keeping Kendrick would have given you the ‘additional’ RH hitting OF that doesn’t have a degenerative disease. Also could have been the ‘backup’ to Forsythe if that plan failed. Kendrick alone replaces Ruf, Gutierrez and Utley. One roster spot compared to possibly 3.

      I expect the naysayers to say yes, but Kendrick wasn’t happy. Of course not. He’s been a bona fide ML player for a while and hasn’t been associated with the way the Dodgers are now doing things. Most any player would be like ‘get me out of here.’

      Platooning people as much as they do never allows anyone to get in a rhythm and late in a game the other team will dictate who is going to bat, at least if it’s not Seager, Turner or Gonzalez coming up to bat.

      The irony is that the Dodgers have the highest payroll (now 3 years running) and have built a team of platoons’.

    2. Idahoal

      It is good to hear your take on Guetierrez.

      I did remember you watch a lot of the Mariner’s games, and I wasn’t sure about Guetierrez, because I read a lot of comments, from Marner fans, that said positive things about him.

      I really think Scotty offers more if he is ok, because he can platoon for Agone, and give him rest, and Scotty plays good defense in the outfielder too, as long as he is well.

  8. I still do not look at the gathering of old guys and 4A players as depth. Every team has guys at AAA that can step in if needed. Like ours, most can hit about .240 with squirrel like power. The reason we made it to the playoffs 4 years in a row was not because of backups.

    What Rick said.

    Just read an article that ranked San Diego and Colorado minor league systems ahead of ours. We are now 9th in that particular ranking system. Keep giving away prospects and that will keep changing. Alvarez, Bellinger, Verdugo and Calhoun ranked as Tier 1 players. Several, including Toles, as Tier 2.

    1. I agree there Badger. We won because we had solid starting lineups most of the time, and some pretty fair pitching, and one time they got hot and won 42 of 50…..won’t see that again…

    2. Badger

      Did you listen to the baseball America podcast on the Dodgers, they had a lot of positive things, to say about Calhoun?

      Bluto listed it above.

      1. Nope. Haven’t listened to any podcasts lately. Been reading though.

        Sickels has a different take:

        Top 200. A few current Dodgers, a few ex Dodgers. With Seager and Urias up with the big club, Cotton, Montas, De Leon and Holmes gone, the system isn’t as stacked as it was just a few months ago. Plenty there of course, and enough money to secure the free agents needed, though I know some keep saying THIS year they will get below luxury tax levels. I suspect THIS year will stretch out to NEXT year for a while yet.

        I really was looking forward to a Dodger ’18 team with Seager, Bellinger, Urias, Cotton, Holmes, Verdugo, De Leon, Peraza, Calhoun all competing. But, as my ex so eloquently put it – “Things change. You’re out, he’s in”.

        1. Badger

          I am glad she is a ex, with an attitude like that, and I am sure, you are in much better company, now.

          I am not worried about the luxary tax, because in the next two years, there are some big contracts, that will expire, and that won’t be such a big issue, if they handle things well.

          And I don’t think they are worried either.

  9. Well sounds like he has a disease similar to the degenerative condition Matt Kemp has in his hips. I do not know how it all will play out, and I am pretty sure the front office is throwing darts to see which ones hit the bulls eye. Reyes of the Cardinals out for the year with TJ surgery later this week. KC lost a starter because he fell through the roof on his barn! Damn, no ones safe these days. Cute video of CK doing his workout with his baby daughter. Have a great day all…..

    1. Michael

      Matt’s hips I believe are an osteo problem.

      Guetierrez has a auto immune disease where his own immune system, is attacking his own body.

        1. Chili

          Maybe Kazmir will step up after hearing about what Guerierrez, is going through.

          Kazmir had that back and neck problem, that didn’t allow him to pitch the entire season, but what Guerierrez is going through, is so much worse, and it is amazing he is still playing,
          in the major leagues.

          Maybe Kazmir will count his blessings, and get out there, and pitch.

          I always felt that Kazmir and McCarthy, were way to anxious to come out of a game.

          1. IDK. I am of the ilk that either you have been babied your entire life or you haven’t. Am guessing that Gutierrez hasn’t and possibly that Kazmir and McCarthy have. If that is the case than nothing is going to change. But one could assume that both Kazmir and McCarthy are going to want to be able to pitch and pitch well next year when both of their contracts expire.

      1. Might be a different animal, but the same type of condition and believe me the words good and arthritis should never be used in the same sentence because there is not one thing good about arthritis. It is what ended Koufax’s career. DR told Sandy he could keep on pitching, but in a few years he would most likely lose the use of his left arm…so he quit, and he pissed the Dodgers off when he did because he would not wait to announce his retirement until they could trade for another starter. His replacement………you got it..nobody could replace Sandy

        1. Michael

          Unfortunately I have both, so I know what it is like.

          I am just glad that my auto immune disease, is not as serious, as what Guetierrez is dealing with.

  10. I just read something interesting. Did you know that the most money Koufax ever made in 1 season was 125,000 dollars? Drysdale’s biggest contract was 115,000. Koufax after winning almost every award in the book in 1963 got a 35,000 dollar raise from 35,000 to 70,000 in 1964. If he pitched today, he would be a part owner of the team…

    1. Michael

      I remember seeing on TV that Koufax and Drysdale held out together, to get a raise one year, and Drysdale was doing little jobs in Hollywood during this time.

      You guys probably know a lot more about that then me, because I only saw it on TV, because I was really young in those years.

      1. He and Koufax were signed to do a movie. The Dodgers finally caved and signed both. That was just before the 1966 season. Sandy had a great year, Drysdale, not so much. Did you know that between them their World Series records combined are 7-6? Koufax was 4-3, Big D 3-3. Of course, he lost 2 games to the Orioles in the 66 Series that they were swept. He only pitched twice because Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur. Koufax was the WS MVP in 63, and 65, both times he won 2 games. 2-0 in 63, 2-1 in 65. He was 0-1 in 66 and 0-1 in 59.

        1. Michael

          No I didn’t know there records, but I remember knowing both Koufax’s and Drysdale’s names, at the age, of five or six years old.

    2. Yeah, crazy.

      Even nuttier is that most MLB players had to have second jobs back then.

      Major props to Marvin Miller for breaking ownership’s restrictive processes and empowering players to make good money.

      1. They had 2nd jobs for a long time. Richie Hebner of the Pirates off season job…………grave digger…….

          1. I remember during one of the work stoppages Dave Stewart worked in a gas station. The pendulum swing was good for the players but not so good for the fans.

  11. Jonah

    I use to think that the salaries the players get in baseball today, was an evening out, from what happened to players, in those other times.

    But the owners are still making big money today, too.

    1. Players win! Owners win! Fans lose! Not that they’ve got one cent of my money in the last 42 years… It’s a house of cards that will one day fall.

      1. Jonah

        It is so different today, because you can see every game, on TV now.

        The radio was the way the masses watched most of the games before, and we were the luckiest fans, because Vinny, made our picture, even clearer.

        1. You must have had a better radio than I did, I never saw one game on radio. (I know what you meant). I don’t think I even have any desire to watch a game now… So much dead time during the game.

          1. I know about streaming, I just have no wish to watch a game. Too boring, too much wasted time. Rather read.

      1. How long did it take the Brooklyn Dodgers take to finally win one?

        At least the guy in your picture, has good poster still.

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