The sad news about Franklin Gutierrez’s health comes with some baffling news as well: he’s been placed on the restricted list by the Mariners. By being on the restricted list, Gutierrez is not paid his $1 million contract for 2014. He does not accrue service time either which, presumably, means that if he comes back next year he’s still under Mariners control.
Question: why in the heck is he on the restricted list?
The Restricted list is defined by Rule 15 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. This is it:
(a) RESTRICTED LIST. If, without permission from a player’s Major or Minor
League Club, a player fails, within 10 days of the opening of the player’s Club’s
championship season, to report to, or contract with, the player’s Club, the player may be
reported by the Club to the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designee for
placement on the “Restricted List.” A player on the Restricted List shall not be eligible
to play for any Major or Minor League Club.
Before the start of the championship season but not before January 1, a Major or
Minor League Club also may report for placement on the Restricted List any player,
whether or not under contract for the current season, who has given the Club written or
telegraphic notification that the player will not report until 30 days or more after the
opening of the championship season. Requests to the Commissioner or the
Commissioner’s designee shall be accompanied by the notification which the Club
received from the player.
The Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designee may place a Major or Minor
League Reserve List player on the Restricted List if the player’s Club certifies that
unusual circumstances exist.
Normally the restricted list is used as a disciplinary or quasi-disciplinary thing. Like, say, a player is arrested. Or is in drug rehab. Or has left the team for unauthorized purposes. It’s not used to avoid paying players who are sick or injured.
The interesting twist here is that Gutierrez, while apparently, sick, has not reported to camp. While this is only speculation, he apparently decided that he was so sick and so not able to play that reporting wasn’t necessary. I would assume that, based on this, the Mariners are taking the position that Gutierrez has not reported per Rule 15. If he had shown up and was shown to be sick, presumably the Mariners would have no choice but to put him on the disabled list. If he were on the 60-day DL, he wouldn’t count against the 40-man roster. And he would still be paid. If he asked to be absent from camp and that permission was not granted by the Mariners, man, where do they get off?
No matter the case, I do wonder if the MLBPA and the league is going to allow this move to stand. Because, even if it’s technically true that Gutierrez has not reported, he is essentially being punished for being too ill to play baseball. And that’s not the point of the restricted list.