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.
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.