The saga of will he or won’t he return to Sporting Kansas City has been ongoing since SKC declined Felipe Gutierrez’s 2021 contract option following the 2020 season. Its had some weird twists and turns with Sporting eventually selecting Gutierrez, their own player, in the Re-Entry Draft.
Why all the maneuvering? It comes down to money, as usual in sports. The last known salary of Felipe Gutierrez was his 2019 salary of $1.65 million (2020 salary data wasn’t released). In 2019, the last year he played, Gutierrez was the team’s MVP. He was quite good in 2018 (when he was healthy). However, he missed the entirety of the 2020 MLS season. The question becomes, will he ever be the same again after such a catastrophic knee injury?
Peter Vermes talked to the media last week when discussing bringing back Roger Espinoza for the 2021 season and addressed the injury concerns.
“We are in a negotiation with [Gutierrez], we have been since the end of the season and his representatives,” said Vermes. “It is a little bit of a different one, I won’t go too deep into it but obviously we are dealing with the injury aspect of it. He didn’t play a single minute last year and he had surgery that frankly at the end there is an unknown.”
Felipe Gutierrez occupied one of three Designated Player spots on the 2020 roster. That spot has since been filled by Gadi Kinda after his loan option was picked up and he joined on a permanent transfer. Johnny Russell could still have had his 2021 salary bought down below DP levels most likely, but it appears the move is an attempt to greatly reduce the risk over overpaying Gutierrez who may not play or at least play consistently.
Gutierrez’s 2021 Plans
Felipe was on the radio in his native Chile and he wants to stay in Kansas City, but only for the right price (he confirmed SKC’s offer is “far below” his previous deal). According to Twitter user @francisand1u, Guti’s “intention is first to recover from the injury, play and see if they can make him a better offer in the US.” He goes on to confirm he’s out of contract and back in Chile recovering. He prefers (possibly because of money) to stay with Sporting KC, but he’s open to a return to his original club, Catolica. He’s also open to playing for other clubs in Chile if Catolica doesn’t work out.
He earned his Green Card in 2020, so it’s unclear if this will have any impact on that. If he hopes to play and then get a better off in the US, then does that mean he will sign temporarily to play elsewhere?
I personally hope Sporting KC can sign him at a modest deal full of incentives. There is no reason to not pay him what he’s worth if he can return to the minutes and other numbers he put up in 2019 and earlier. One assumes Sporting worked a similar deal with Johnny Russell as he initially made a small sum and then suddenly burst up to much higher pay (though that could just be MLSPA calculations).