The Seattle Mariners knew that this day was coming.
It was not a matter of if, but when.
When Chone Figgins was signed to a four-year, $36 million deal in 2009, fans were fairly excited. After all, Figgins was supposed to be a strong complement to Ichiro Suzuki and provide a devastating one-two punch on the basepaths.
Unfortunately, things did not quite work out, as Figgins failed to meet even minimal expectations. I suppose you could argue that his first year as a Mariner (.259 average, 42 stolen bases) was perfectly adequate.
Then, it got ugly.
His statistics over the next two seasons were simply pitiful, and Figgins eventually found himself on the end of the bench in a part-time role. His stats were just depressing:
- 2011: 81 games, .188 average, 11 stolen bases. Not good.
- 2012: 66 games, .181 average, 4 stolen bases. Yes, it got worse.
I think the Mariners realized something in the offseason. A player who is about to turn 35 does not suddenly rediscover his hitting stroke.
Sure, he once hit .330 for the Los Angeles Angels, but that was five years ago.
You hate to eat a $9 million salary, but at this stage in the game, there wasn’t much point in keeping him on the roster. If you are going to have a guy sit on the bench, at least have it be a youngster who has a future.
Figgins will still get paid, but the Mariners get to move on and put this embarrassing contract behind them. Figgins was potentially going to be a distraction all year, and sometimes it is just best to get a head start on the inevitable.
This is the sad reality of signing free agents. Sometimes, it just does not work out.
On paper, Figgins should have been a good signing. In his eight-year career with the Angels, he was a .291 hitter who averaged 35 stolen bases per year. In 2005, he swiped 62 bases.
But in three years with the Mariners, Figgins had a batting average of .227, and he averaged 19 stolen bases per season.
Not exactly comparable numbers.
For those that are into Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Figgins was a minus-1.2 in both 2011 and 2012. Compare that to his last year with the Angels in 2009, when his WAR was 7.5 for the season.
That is the Figgins that the Mariners hoped they would get when they signed him to a lucrative deal.
What happened? We may never know. Such is the challenge of playing baseball at the highest level.
Will the memories of Figgins impact the team's potential signings in the future? One assumes that at some point the Mariners will bring in a marquee free agent. However, this type of contract is hard to forget.
Every team has some bad deals in its history, but it hurts more when your franchise does not give out these types of contracts very often.