Mariners Sign Figgins

It’s not quite official yet, but all signs are pointing to Seattle signing Chone Figgins to a 4-year, $36 million deal. The Mariners are wasting no time in their efforts to compete in the AL West, having signed away one of their greatest rival’s more productive players. I’m pretty sure they’d like to snag John Lackey while they are at it. To beat the Angels, you gotta be the Angels.

Chone Figgins doesn’t garner the same sort of attention that Jason Bay and Matt Holliday do, but he definitely was one of the more attractive players on this year’s free agent market. Coming off a career high 6.1 WAR season (6.8 if you include baserunning), Figgins could not have hit the free agent market at a more perfect time.

It’s doubtful that Figgins will have another season quite this good, so the Mariners are factoring a healthy dose of regression into this contract, paying for 2 wins per season going forward. This is pretty prudent given that this contract will carry him into his age 36 season.

Up to the present at least, Figgins has aged like fine wine. With every season he has become increasingly more of a selective hitter.

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He also has become a more proficient fielder as he’s made his home at third. His past four seasons at the hot corner are: -7, -4, +8, +17. He’s probably not +17 good going forward; few are, but for what it’s worth the fans thought he was a tad better than Ryan Zimmerman, Scott Rolen and Pedro Feliz last year. That’s some elite company. Steve Sommer, who has put together 2010 UZR projections regressed to Tango’s Fans Scouting Report, projected Figgins at +9 next year. I feel comfortable projecting Figgins in the 6-10 UZR range for next season.

There’s also the matter of Figgins’ ability to wreak havoc on the basepaths. I’m not talking about stolen bases – if anything Figgins could be more selective in that regard. I’m talking about advancing on hits, fly balls and grounders. In the past four seasons, Figgins has been worth an extra 28 runs. Sneaky, sneaky.

Figgins isn’t as sexy of a free agent as Bay, but he’s someone who does a lot of undervalued things us nerds like: getting on base, taking extra bases and playing solid defense. And then there’s the matter of his versatility, which can only help the Mariners as they work in several young players. Some objectors say the M’s really needed a power bat, but production is production. Jack Zduriencik is a smart guy, he knows that. I would take Figgins at 4 years, $36 million over Bay at 4 years, $60 million plus any day of the week.

As for the Angels, it’s now or never for Brandon Wood. He’s tantalized Angels fans with his power in the minor leagues for years now, but can do it consistently at the major league level? The Angels should give him every opportunity, but it would not be a bad idea to bring in cheap player like Joe Crede to mitigate the risk that they have with Wood.

Think you have an idea of what Chone Figgins and Brandon Wood will do next season? Click here to enter your 2010 projections!



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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.


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Christian Seehausen
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Christian Seehausen

This is a smart, smart move for the M’s, I just wish the Astros had been smart enough to top it and offer him a well-deserved $40MM over four.

R M
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R M

Why would the astros sign a free agent like that with the chances they have of competing? It wouldn’t make sense.

Christian Seehausen
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Christian Seehausen

They’ll have a chance to compete in 2011-13, I think, but with no infielders coming up from the farm they will have big needs at second and third base, and the market for SS/2B/3B is likely to be very bad next off-season. Figgins would have resolved that need for those three years. Anyway, the Astros are unwilling and unable to tear down and rebuild, so they need to sign *somebody*. I hope they at least go after Beltre.

hk
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hk

If you think the Astros are ready to compete in 2011-3, doesn’t it make more sense for them to restrain their spending this year and sign free agent IF’s next offseason? Why blow $9M on Figgins in 2010, a year in which he potentially could peak (if 2009 wasn’t his peak year)? I agree with your assessment of wanting Beltre, who could put up huge #’s in moving from Safeco to Minute Maid and it’s quite possible that Beltre will be a free agent next offseason. I don’t see any team coming close to giving Beltre the $10M per year that he wants, so he’ll most likely accept arbitration, make $13M or so in 2010 and be back on the market next offseason.

David MVP Eckstein
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There’s more info in the name link, but…

In the post-Moneyball era, the value of raw offensive power has become more universally recognized. Where as once upon a time, slow and aged one-tool sluggers had difficulty finding non-DHing jobs, nowadays, even hated players like Adam Dunn can find a good pay day. However, as a consequence of offensive value appreciating on the market, the yang to the baseball’s ying, defensive ability and runs prevention, has become the new underrated asset of baseball.

Despite popular belief, the spirit of Moneyball was not about on-base ability and slugging. It was about exploiting market inefficiencies so as to maximize the difference between runs creation and runs prevention. Back in 2002, when the raw tools of offense were undervalued, the focus of the underrated market value game was OBP and OPS. In this new era of baseball, however, “[t]he newest, cheapest commodities are defense and athletic players.” And it’s not just Billy Beane who has taken notice. Enter Jack Zduriencik.

Jack Zduriencik, the man who built the Brewers’ talented farm system, was hired as the GM of the Seattle Mariners following a disastrously disappointing 2008 season, where the M’s went 61-101. Just one year later, Zduriencik has made some big, bold changes, exploiting both market inefficiencies and Safe Co.’s park dimensions to the benefit of the organization and put the team in a position to contend in 2010.

Despite the presence of strong defenders like Adrian Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners ranked in the bottom half of the league defensively in 2008. Not surprisingly, the pitching staff ranked in the bottom half of the league as well. The other side of the game was much less pretty. The team’s cumulatively below average glove was poorly complemented by an even weaker bat, as the team’s collective .310 wOBA was bottom five in all of baseball. In short, the active roster was in shambles and the minor league system…well, the Mariners really did not have much of one. This was the state of being for the Mariners when Zduriencik stepped in.

Since taking over as GM, Zduriencik has made a bold change by moving the team’s spending away from offensive production and shifting it towards runs prevention and defense. Instead of luring in “offensive” players to fill team holes last season (those like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, or, god forbid, Richie Sexson), the Mariners went out and got guys for their gloves, acquiring Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez. Even Russell Branyan, who was brought in for his offensive contributions, provided the team with a league average glove. Zduriencik, realizing that both Safe Co. Park and the Oakland Coliseum, between which the Mariners play approximately 92 games a season, similarly deflated offensive production, decided to exploit the runs creation/prevention gap by focusing on the prevention aspect of the game. And he did successfully.

By a wide margin, the 2009 Mariners had the best defensive team in baseball last season, preventing 16 more runs from scoring than the second best defensive team (the Rays). Between the park’s cavernous dimensions and +62.0 UZR outfield, the team was able to turn even Jarrod Washburn into a staff ace and the team won 85 games behind the league’s 6th best team in ERA (note: ERA is a terrible metric to evaluate future success, but it does evaluate the level of success a pitching staff had in a single year, whether it be luck, defense or talent based). And although I normally lobby for FIP-based ERA regression, I dare utter no such thing about the Mariners’ league leading -0.52 ERA-FIP split going into next season. Why? Because the Mariners defense is only gettting better.

As Erik Manning points out, the Mariners continue to abuse the persistence market inefficiencies of defense. Chone Figgins has a stellar glove and above average/no-power skill set that should bode well with Safe Co. and the Mariners. After posting a +6 WAR season, $36 million over four years seems a steal for Chone Figgins; especially when you consider that Jason Bay is posed for a +$60 million dollar, four year pay day after posting a mere +3.5 WAR season. In addition to bringing into Chone Figgins to play third, the team has also extended mid-season SS acquisition Jack Wilson, who averaged a +18 UZR/150 over the last two seasons. That solidifies the left side of the infield, while Ichiro, Ryan Langerhans, and Franklin Gutierrez man the outfield.

The right side of the infield is more ify, though still solid with some combination of Jose Lopez (decent bat, average glove) and Ronny Cedeno (terrible bat, great glove) playing 2B. 1B remains an unknown at this point, though the team seems intent on bringing Russell Branyan back. If they cannot, however, the market is plenty saturated (I smell value) with players the team can plug and play at 1B.

In sum, the Mariners are poised to again be the league’s best defensive team. A few high risk, low cost gambles like Rich Harden or Ben Sheets help lead the team to a stellar 2010 season (escpecially when you consider that Chone Figgins and Jack Wilson cannot possibly hit any worse in 2010 than Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Bentacourt did in 2009).

The AL West needs to look out. With Jack Zduriencik aroud, the M’s are back in force.

Joser
Member
Joser

TL;DR

The AL West needs to look out. With Jack Zduriencik arou[n]d, the M’s are back in force.

You did realize that the post you were responding to said “Why would the astros sign a free agent like that with the chances they have of competing? It wouldn’t make sense,” right?

Joser
Member
Joser

Also, if you’re going to do all that work you really should use something better than ESPN’s park factors. It didn’t affect your conclusion (the observation that Safeco and McAfee both suppress offense — especially to LF — and that disproportionately affects the M’s and the A’s, is valid and has been noted elsewhere although it’s been overlooked by many including, apparently, Bill Bavasi). But for future reference you might want to look at Home Run Park Factor: A New Approach and Batted Balls and Park Effects, both at THT.

David MVP Eckstein
Guest

I do realize i should use something more scientific, but I was in the middle of law finals and just wanted to finish the article

Svp
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Svp

Chridtian should have his commen rights revoked after this one

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