Gutierrez, now 28, was once a high-profile prospect that signed with the Reds after he defected from his native Cuba. The club gave him a bonus of $4.75MM but effectively had to pay double under the old bonus system, a 100% tax for going over their limit. That meant they paid $9.5MM to get Gutierrez into the system.
As he worked his way up the minors, he became a notable prospect in their system, with Baseball America ranking him one of the 10 best Reds’ prospects in three straight years from 2017 to 2019. His stock has dimmed since then, however. In 2020, before he had reached the majors, he received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He was nonetheless added to the club’s 40-man roster to keep him out of that year’s Rule 5 draft. He went on to appear in 32 games over the 2021 and 2022 seasons but required Tommy John surgery in July of 2022. He made five minor league appearances late in 2023 as part of a rehab assignment but was still on the IL at season’s end.
He was set to qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting him for a modest bump to $1MM. That’s barely above the major league minimum salary, which will be $740K in 2024. But the Reds evidently didn’t want to give him that raise, as he was outrighted off the roster in October. Now he’ll be looking to jump to a new organization for the first time in his career.
He once looked like a potentially useful rotation piece, making 22 starts for the Reds in 2021 when he was just 25 years old, posting a 4.74 earned run average. His 17.7% strikeout rate was subpar but his 9.3% walk rate and 43.4% ground ball rate were around league average. Unfortunately, his results were rough in 2022, as his ERA jumped to 7.61 before he went under the knife. During his brief rehab assignment in 2023, he struck out 25.9% of batters faced but also showed plenty of rust with a 22.2% walk rate.
Now a free agent, Gutierrez would be a low-cost project for any club that signs him. He still has a couple of option years, meaning he could be kept in the minors as a depth piece by any club that gave him a roster spot. He’s also shy of three years of service time, meaning he could potentially be retained for future seasons via arbitration if he is able to get into good form.
All reporting indicates the demand for starting pitching is incredibly high this offseason and some clubs will inevitably miss out on the costlier free agents, which will leave them looking for cheaper options. Even big spending clubs needs to have depth pieces, which could give Gutierrez widespread appeal, given his options and cheap club control.