Could Figgins become Z's Jeff Cirillo

I started typing this out yesterday since then both Geoff Baker and Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing have posted some thoughts about our 2B Chone Figgins.  I will go ahead and submit the post for those who would like to comment about what should or could be done with Figgins.

Of all the moves our Zduriencik has made over the last couple of years the one move that he and the Mariner fans may come to regret the most is his free agent signing of 32 yr old Chone Figgins.  The original vision was to have Chone offer a one two punch at the top of the order that apply immense pressure to the opposition’s pitching and defense (I’ve heard of this strategy numerous times over the years, and other than a game here or a game there I’ve never seen it have long term success.  However, a team that is capable of consistently driving the ball that will place pressure on the opposing pitchers).  The other great attribute Chone was supposed to bring to the team was his outstanding defensive abilities.

Chone’s contract while not completely onerous is still a large amount of change representing about 10% of the M’s payroll at 4yr $36M with a potential 5th yr vesting option at $9M.

Chone’s positive impact on the team this year has been negligible. While he has added more athleticism up the middle, his defensive abilities cannot be described as stellar / lights out.  Last year with the Angels, he could be classified as an elite defender at third base, worth about 16 runs more than the average third baseman with his glove alone. But this year with the Mariners at 2B, he's been worth about five runs less than the average fielder.   Offensively, he is seeing more pitches per plate appearance than any other time in his career and he has stolen quite a few bases this year (with a career high success rate) but with the bat his OBP is only .324 – well below last year’s career high of .395 and with only a .590 OPS (65 OPS+) he is not adding much value with his bat and not providing the top of the order catalyst the M’s GM expected to receive with this addition.  

I do not see Lopez coming back next year, so Chone would probably be moved over to 3B with Ackley manning 2B.  Even if Chone’s bat does rebound some to resemble a career OBP/SLG/OPS averages 359/378/737 this would still only be a 96 OPS+.  Is this worth $9M/yr?  Chone would also be occupying a position which would ideally provide some power to the lineup.  The only two everyday players who are currently on the M’s roster which pose a power threat and look to be back next year are Smoak and Branyan.  The total team numbers put up this year shows that the M’s need to have players who can drive the ball and not just hope they can string a bunch of singles together.

Z’s move to acquire Figgins may prove to be his albatross.  It is easy to say in retrospect but both strategically and from a resource perspective, I’m not sure if it was the best use of funds.  In Z’s defense who could have predicted Figgin’s would fall this flat even with factoring in the position change.

Now the question which remains is what is Z going to do with Figgins over the next 3-4 yrs?


Slurve's picture

He very well might but you're also forgetting Figgins brigns speed to the table along with his defense and his OBP/AVG. He's not a very orthodox third baseman in the traditional sense but no one could've predicted Figgins being this bad. Even if he doesn't repeat his career year, where he put up 6.1 WAR, you can hope he ends up averaging out to be a 3-4 WAR player. His BABIP is lower than his career norms and hopefully this is just one helluva slump or something. I'm hoping it's not going to be but it just may be so.

Taro's picture

The position switch has to be considered a massive failure at this point. You're worse off defensively and you've nuked both players offensively.
Lopez needs to be shipped off at this point. Hopefully Figgins can go back to being plus defensively at 3rd and will remember how to hit.



Chone, 2009: .298/.395/.393/.789, 108 OPS+
Jose, 2009: .272/.303/.463/.766, 102 OPS+
Chone, 2010: .229/.330/.268/.598, 67 OPS+
Jose, 2010: .240/.268/.342/.610, 67 OPS+
Correlation is not causation, but seriously guys: never do that again.
Chone has to go back to third, and Jose just has to go. We can't afford his $5 million option for next year, not when we've already got the $9 million tied up in Figgins.
Just a brutal half-season for both guys. Fingers crossed that switching Chone back will help fix the damage.

TAD's picture

Yes certainly he can be moved back to 3B.  And with Ackley development quickening over the last couple of months, I expect him if not opening at 2B with the M's at least up within the first couple of months. 
Therefore Figgins will be moved back to 3B, where several minorleaguers who are more than capable of playing his position will be knocking on the door over the next couple of years: Tui, Mangini, Truinfel, Liddi and Tenbrink(currently playing OF at West Tenn).
Will a move back to 3B improve Figgins OPS enough to warrant holding off this onslaught of young talent?  And even if his defense does return to its elevated level of 2009, do the M's need a second slap hitter at the top of the lineup which is already lacking hitters who can drive the ball with much dependability.


One of the first things discovered:  (1) in Strat-O-Matic, you put your hitters at the most demanding positions they can handle.  (2) in real life, good baseball orgs put their hitters at the easier of their "between" positions.  Baseball's hard enough even if you make it easy, Yogi.
I was hugely for Chone/Lopez switching, but without a doubt, this adventure was a case-in-point for not "stretching" a player to a position where he's dubious.
James was asked by Baker what he thought about Chone playing 2B, and James predicted that Chone Figgins specifically is a player prone to breaking down if not verrrrrry comfortable in what he's doing.  That was his assessment not of the idea in abstract, but of Chone Figgins as a specific baseball player.
Tell me that wasn't an amazing call.
Lopez, however, I'd keep at third from now on, wherever he plays next...

TAD's picture

Figgins is seeing a career high 4.26 P/AB this year.  He ranks 6th in the AL.  The problem is that he does not have any power so if he doesn't walk he is dependend on his batted ball missing a fielder.

TAD's picture

Yes, I do recall James indicating that if the M's do indeed make the position switch they need to keep Figgin's there throughout the year and not switch back and forth between 3B and 2B.  I did find this a little odd because Figgins initially broke into the league as a super utility player. 
If Figgins could be thrown for a loop due to a position change, could the team change have been just as disruptive?  Maybe Chone needs a year to settle in before, his performance returns to its norm.


I dunno that I would call what we have an onslaught.
A lot of players converging on the position? Sure, but how good are they?
Tui - has never posted a legit line to back up his hype. Maybe this year is the start of one. He's a poor fielder and isn't likely to stay at 3B unless his bat improves.
Mangini - Might be a worse fielder than Tui, and hates walking like it said something bad about his mama. Might finally be finding power though.
Truinfel - Slap hitter that never walks is worse than what we currently have. Still 2 years away at best to boot.
Liddi - Stikes out like he gets paid per whiff - far worse against legit breaking pitches as well. Like Tui, probably 2-3 years away, best-case, and the glove sucks.
Tenbrink - Laughably, a worse fielder than either Tui OR Mangini at the hot corner, destined for 1B or OF. Naturally he may be the most interesting bat of the bunch. Too bad about the glove.
Seeing a pattern? Terrible fielders who will likely move off the position, most with questionable bats as well. Nobody's breathing down Chone's neck just yet. The closest might be Tui, as the Ms have already shown they like him. Both he and Mangini are rotating around the field. Tui is playing some SS, some LF, some DH and some 3B. Mangini's going to 1B and DH as well as 3B. It looks like they prefer Tui's glove (which makes sense) but that's not a recommendation of that glove. 
If it takes 2 years for one of those guys to be good enough to challenge Chone, well, he only has a 4 year contract.  Being a 9 million dollar utility guy in the final year of his contract isn't the worst thing.  But I think he'll be playing 3B for us for most of the length of that contract.
Tui looks like he's being slotted for a utility role to get him some ABs in the bigs, just like he started as this year. That doesn't threaten Chone. Mangini is gonna be a 1B and his bat will HAVE to carry his value. Triunfel has a semi-decent, utterly empty average as a 20 year old and isn't gonna man 3B with that absolutely powerless stick yet. And Tenbrink is gonna try to dislodge Mangini as backup OF, not steal Chone's job.
Figgins will have to tank again next year to have any threat from our currently assembled crew. Tui hit worse than him to start this year - they're not replace Chone with Tui unless they're absolutely forced to, IMO. 
Especially not if Smoak, Ackley, Saunders and the two-headed barrel of plate uselessness Johnson/Moore are all manning starting roles in 2011. We'll already have all the kids we can handle.


Figgins is having the absolutely bad, no good, terrible year.  He's at -12.7 URZ150...Yikes.  BAHIP is at an all time low, .286.  But most of the other #'s remain fairly constant. (minus avg. and OBP and slugging, obviously)
Lopez is +7 UZR150, but his other numbers show some interesting things.  A. He is swing at a bunch fewer pitches. He swings  at 55.7% of the pitches last year (a historic high) and is down to 50.7% this year...which is about normal for him, leaving last year out. His ISO is aobut 1/2 of what it was last year (about .100---Yikes), and he's seeing more curveballs this year.  What really stands out is that tis season looks eerily like his cruddy '07. Check it out. I think what I notice about him is that he is better when he swings more...  He's been described as "a hacking hack of a hack" (by me) and I think it is obviously true....but it also shows that he is the better hitter when he is more aggressive at the plate.  I wonder if he's heard all the talk about taking more pitches and if that hasn't influenced his style.  On the other hand, perhaps he's looking at the increased number of curveballs he's seeing this year...but I'm tending to think he's lost his aggressive mojo.
Jose...forget the other crap..go up there hacking.
I still think the guy to let go is Figgins.  I think he'll bring more and I think Lopez is the one WAY more likely to return to last year's numbers.
Some team in the off season will think Figgins collapse was due to the move (I'm not buying that) to 2nd....they'll take a risk on him.  Capitalize on that...get something for him.  Let him go.
Just decide now that Ackley is the guy for next year.

Taro's picture

Its wierd, but Figgins has been a really horrible 2B in the past and has continued to be this year. For whatever reason hes far superior at 3B. Even moreso than Lopez.
Lopez is gone, either by the deadline or in the offseason. Next year its going to be Figgins at 3B and Ackley at 2B.
This is why I felt the switch was a bad bet. It wasn't even a long-term move for the franchise and you were gambling on gaining a tiny bit of D for way too much risk defensively and offensively. Having both guys out of their comfort zones has probably had a part to do in both of their horrific offensive seasons.
Hopefully Figgins can rebound..

M's Watcher's picture

Figgins splits by position have never been good at 2B, and much better for career at 3B, so this year's numbers shouldn't be a surprise.  Move Lopey to Det/Phil and shift Figgy to 3B.  Hopefully the damage isn't permanent like it was with Cirillo.  I'm still looking for them to sell beers for Figgy's BA at the Safe.  Yeah, I know, I could be looking for a long time.


I was going to say something very similar, but G says it better.  I don't foresee any of those 5 being more valuable at 3b than Figgins during the life of his contract, unless he just keeps getting worse.
So I say stick Figgy at third and hope for the best.


And to answer the concern about power at the hot corner...wait for Figgins to have one more really good year...then trade his butt to another team for some prospects and pick up power at third somehow.

TAD's picture

With the departure of Cliff Lee and Griffey, the one of the only player who seems to have stepped forward in a leadership role is Figgins.  As Baker mentioned in his latest blog piece one of the few hitters to come out a speak to the media after their loss to Chicago in which they only managed 2 hits.
This speaks to his character.  It is extremely tough to face questions when you need to explain team wide failure and you are one of the contributors. 
I'm hoping Figgins can turn it around. 


That's the other problem - we need a veteran in the clubhouse for leadership.  It won't be Ichiro.  It could be Sweeney, but I'd prefer it not be.  Bradley just won't cut it.  Branyan?  They hated him in Cleveland, he's not the clubhouse leader type assuming he's even here.  And Jack Wilson...well, I'm still hoping they trade him for a pint of pine tar.
We'll potentially have Moore, Johnson, Saunders, Smoak AND Ackley in the lineup next year.  We don't want Franklin Gutierrez as the veteran voice of leadership - or at least I wouldn't think so.
But leaders still have to play well to keep their respect.
If Chone is OPSing .600 all the leadership in the world won't do him any good.
So we need him to play well again, and we need him to give the next generation the right instruction in what it takes to be professionals.  I like what I've seen of Ackley's character, and Smoak's, and think they can lead just fine in a couple of years, the way Tulo keeps pace with Helton in the Rockies clubhouse or Longoria runs Tampa's.
But for now, we need Chone or a vet like him to fill that role.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.