When the Royals placed Wade Davis on the paternity leave list, the Royals were allowed to fill his roster spot for three days. Now, he’s been activated from that list, and the Royals had to create a spot for him.
The unlucky player was J.C. Gutierrez, who has been designated for assignment.
Gutierrez was a minor league signing from December 2011 and threw 20.2 innings for three Royals minor league affiliates in 2012 while working back from Tommy John surgery. He had a great winter ball season, prompting the Royals to add him to the 40 man roster in November. That decision led to his being the frontrunner for a bullpen job during spring training since he was out of options and players like Donnie Joseph and Louis Coleman were able to be stashed in Omaha.
Gutierrez pitched well in spring training, though, so it wasn’t a travesty that he made the team. I don’t think it was bringing the best team with them to start the season (I preferred Louis Coleman), but in 29.1 innings, Gutierrez had a 3.38 ERA and controlled his walks.
But he was hardly used in situations that mattered. In 25 games, he had two holds, but a better indication of his usage is found from his leverage index numbers. He was brought into a high leverage situation (1.5 or higher), once (if you go by Baseball-Reference’s game logs) or four times (if you prefer Fangraphs). His average LI was the lowest on the team, if you omit Coleman and Joseph who have hardly any innings at the big league level.
To his credit, most of the time, Gutierrez did his job, got the outs, and moved the game along. But there’s a tactical problem in having a guy in your bullpen who you don’t feel comfortable using in difficult spots. Then, you end up using the more reliable relievers more frequently, and you can run into overuse. For the Royals this year, their starting rotation has been strong enough that the bullpen’s been spared from having to chew up innings, but it still limits the Royals to Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and, (sometimes) Kelvin Herrera as the bridge to Greg Holland. Gutierrez never fit in that progression, but a guy like Coleman is a great option in the seventh inning, and
I never understood why Gutierrez, even without options, was placed so high on the priority list. With 0.1 WAR in 2013, he’s the poster child for replacement players.
Yost told Bob Dutton that he sees Gutierrez getting picked up with many teams looking for bullpen help. He’s under contract for $750,000 this year, so the remaining amount is hardly anything for a contender to pick up. If he does clear, he can be stashed back in Omaha and perhaps brought back up at some point. The Royals currently have 38 players on the 40 man roster after this move.