Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Option Thwarted: Figgins to Mariners

Free agent Chone Figgins accepted a four-year, $36M contract offer from the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, knocking one of the top position player free agents out of this winter's marketplace. The deal also has a vesting option for a fifth year which could end up pushing the total value of the contract to $45M.

Figgins is a career .291/.363/.388 hitter in his eight-year major league career, spent entirely with the Los Angeles Angels. In 2009, Figgins batted .298/.395/.393 with 114 runs, 30 doubles, seven triples, five homers, and 54 RBI out of the leadoff spot. He walked 101 times against 114 strikeouts and stole 42 bases in 59 attempts. He will play third base in Seattle, which is where he has spent the bulk of the last three seasons. With LA last season, Figgins's UZR/150 mark was an impressive 18.8, and he is a positive 8.0 at the position throughout his career.

As ESPN's Keith Law points out here, the Mariners are essentially saying that the power aspect is overrated at third base. They let a good fielder and more productive Adrian Beltre (career .270/.325/.453 hitter; career UZR/150 of +13.9 at 3B) walk in favor of a better OBP and OPS option in Figgins. In an era in which the corner infield spots are viewed as production positions, the Mariners are electing to stray from their past and go for more of a table-setter at third base without giving up much on defense. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out in the Pacific Northwest. As Law rightly points out later on in his post, LA gets Seattle's first round pick in the 2010 draft, which is the 18th overall selection, which should not be over-looked.

Although the Twins were never seemingly in the Figgins market, his contract is not outrageous. A $9M annual salary for a 31-year-old player with a lot of post-season experience and strong track record is certainly not a market-breaker. It seems like a contract the Twins could have probably absorbed. However, the team still needs to pay for someone named Mauer this winter, and throwing $45M at Figgins would be $45M fewer dollars the team could spend on locking up Mauer for the next seven years. As frustrating as the Twins' activity or inactivity may be for some fans, all actions much be viewed through the Mauer prism for the time being until that situation is properly addressed.

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