Mailbag: Chone Figgins as UTIL?By
Patrick writes: Recently the Mariners have said that they would throw in cash in a deal that would rid them of Chone Figgins. Because he can play second, third, and some outfield, is Figgins worth anything at all or even a look at this point?
As the Yankee off-season progresses and their needs — few and far between — come into view, it’s clear that Brian Cashman will look to rebuild a bench that has been a source of strength for the Yanks lately. The club has Eduardo Nunez and his amusingly inept defense penciled in as well as Francisco Cervelli, but every spot is up for the grabs. The Yanks could use a power bat, another infielder, someone with thump, someone with speed.
Enter the idea of Chone Figgins. Once upon a time, Figgins was a semi-decent player for the Angels whose production never matched his reputation. In two playoff series against the Yanks, he was terrible, going just 6 for 44, but during the regular season, he managed to hit a respectable .298/.365/.393 against the Bombers in his career. Before departing Anaheim for northern climes, he was a versatile defender who spent time at third, second and in the outfield.
Yet after posting a 99 OPS+ in eight seasons with the Angels and signing a front-loaded four-year, $36-million contract with the Mariners, things have utterly fallen apart. In two years spanning over 1000 plate appearances, Figgins has hit .236/.309/.285 with a sub-par 71 percent stole base rate and 95 walks over two seasons. He hit it big after posting over 100 bases on balls in 2009, the first and only time he reached that plateau, and the Mariners were foolish enough to grant him an outsized deal for his ages 32-35 seasons.
In Seattle, Figgins is essentially persona non grata. Fans of the team have given up on him, and Seattle management has as well. According to a recent report, the Mariners would offer cash to any team willing to take Figgins, the two years and the $17 million he is owed off their hands. Get yer spare washed-up one-time middle infielders here! Just $5 million a season! It’s a bargain.
Of course, the problem with Figgins as a potential solution for any team is his recent sheer lack of success. He’s been flat-out awful lately, and while his 2011 was marred by a .214 BABIP, he wasn’t particularly good in 2010 with a .314 BABIP. It’s not unexpected to see guys of his offensive profile out of the game by their age 34 season; it’s happened to players better than him. So he enters the final two years of the contract with a giant question mark surrounding his status. The Mariners must pay him, but can they turn him into anything useful?
For the Yanks to even take a chance on Figgins, the price would essentially have to be nothing. The Mariners could pay half his money and offer him up as a potential reclamation project. For just $4 million a year, try to tease something useful out of the ghost of Chone Figgins. To make it worthwhile, the Yanks would have to be satisfied with the answer to one question: Is Figgins $3.5 million better than Eduardo Nunez?
As much as I am skeptical of Nunez’s long-term viability, the answer is likely not. Nunez hit a lackluster .265/.313/.385 in far too many plate appearances — 338 to be exact — and he made 27 errors at short, second and third. But Nunez has youth and money on his side. He’ll be playing his age 25 season in 2012 and will make under $500,000. The Yanks once thought highly enough of him to keep him out of some high-profile trade talks so the club won’t just throw in the towel. Unless someone truly superior lands in the Yanks’ lap, Nunez, with his versatile as shaky as it may be, will be their guy.
As a non-roster invitee searching for a team, Figgins could be worth a look. But until the Mariners decide to cut their losses, he’s just a shell of a player who would have been a fine super utility guy four or five years ago. His days are likely over.