Gutierrez was first signed and acquired by Madison as an International Free Agent. The Wolves threw a large sum of money, over $5.5 million, to sign on with the club. For the Wolves, Gutierrez was only the second major IFA they had ever signed. Many wondered if it was a smart move or whether Gutierrez would even pan out. That was 2036. Now, he sits in a locker room with very little left to prove in the minor leagues, wondering if he'll get the call this September. Or if not, when will the call come.
"I know I'm ready" said Gutierrez to reporters while tying his cleats, "I don't think it's a matter of if. But when."
The when is what many fans of the Wolves are also asking. Despite having a so-so run in double-A this season, Rafael was promoted to triple-A around the all-star break and has made his name known around the league. In 41 games, the guy they call "Big Time" has hit .362/.393/.528 with 6 triples and 8 stolen bases. "He's shown me he's ready" said his manager and former Wolves pitcher and now team hall of fame member Tyree Wills. "But I don't make those calls. I just make out the lineups, play the guys they want to see, and manage a roster of hopefuls who hope the call comes for them to head to Madison."
A call that has yet to come and by indications won't come this season.
At 62-75, Madison is 9 games out of the wild card race with a whole host of teams to hurdle. It's not happening this season. Some would clamor this is a perfect time to see what Gutierrez can do at the big league level. But that brings in the next problem. That problem is 21 year old Ross Quicker. He needs to play as well.
In just 3 seasons, Quicker has made his mark on the big leagues already. As of the first of September, he's already accumulated 100 stolen bases for his career. He's 1 homerun shy this season of hitting 20 for the first time in his career and going 20-20 in homeruns and stolen bases. Not a milestone people really look for but when you add in a batting average of over .300 and an OPS of over .800, it shows you're a pretty well rounded player. While fans cry to see Gutierrez, they'll also be disappointed to not see Quicker. The Wolves front office, while refusing to comment on the Gutierrez situation, have apparently become a lot more tight and play things close to the vest when it comes to financial matters. A team once known for free willingly bringing guys up when they're ready, now appears patient and not quite willing to start the clock on Gutierrez.
Meanwhile Gutierrez waits on his fate. No one has told him officially but he knows he most likely won't be up this season. But what about next year? What about Quicker? "I don't get paid to answer those questions" Gutierrez adds as he stands up to head onto the field for warm-ups. "I get paid to play baseball. Hopefully soon that's for a big league club."
Gutierrez, who reminds a lot of people of an infielder version of Steve Dempsey, now just waits. Waits for a shot at the pros. Waits to see what the franchise decides to do with him. Or perhaps, waits to see what happens with Quicker.