Chone Figgins: Solving the Seattle Mariners' Biggest Problem

Rick RandallContributor IIJune 9, 2011

Figgins may be best suited for a bench role
Figgins may be best suited for a bench roleJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners are playing surprisingly good baseball this season, as they enter their series with the Detroit Tigers two games over .500 and just 2.5 games behind division-leading Texas

They are getting unexpected contributions from a number of players—most notably rookie pitcher Michael Pineda and veteran free-agent signee Adam Kennedy—that are allowing them to keep pace.

But one player that is unquestionably dragging the team's performance and likelihood of sustained contention down is also one of the club's highest paid players.

Third baseman Chone Figgins is struggling mightily with the bat once again, but unlike last season, the team does have some options to try and solve the problem.

Others have mentioned recently that credible baseball sources have suggested that the best role for Figgins has been and always will be as that of a super-utility-type player, i.e., someone that plays four or five times per week at two or three different positions.

Until just a few seasons ago, that is exactly the role he filled for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As Seattle struggles to find a fit with their backup infielders and outfielders, it is time for the Mariners to bite the bullet on Figgins' value and move him back into that role—a role where he could actually increase his value to the team and possibly even on the trade market if his bat manages to come around.

The aforementioned Adam Kennedy is the next piece of the puzzle to solving this problem.

Kennedy has played third base extensively in his big league career—as recently as 2009 with fellow American League West club Oakland, it was his primary defensive position.

He isn't spectacular over there, but let's face it, neither is Chone Figgins lately. Keeping Kennedy's bat in the lineup is crucial to the Mariners while so many of their regulars struggle.

The final piece of this problem solving puzzle hinges on the impending promotion of top prospect Dustin Ackley.

What, exactly, the Mariners are waiting for on this move is beyond me. His defense is continually improving (and already no worse than Kennedy's at the keystone) and his bat has been ready for months.

While Mike Carp was trending on Twitter last week, Ackley was quietly raising his average above .300, hitting home runs off of veteran MLB left-handers and furthering the gap between his walk and strikeout totals.

Each of the trio of Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Ackley are players that have the ability and patient approach to hit in the No. 2 spot in the lineup behind Ichiro while still allowing him ample opportunities to run.

And, let's face it, all of them are better hitters than Chone Figgins right now.

The Mariners are a team that is not going to score a ton of runs this season, which makes every out in the strong part of their lineup even more important.

Figgins is a black hole right now, but he is a problem which the Mariners have the means to solve internally and immediately.