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Cutting Chone Figgins is both immediately painful and satisfying. The Seattle Mariners would continue paying big bucks to Figgins through 2013 for zero services rendered. That money is water under the bridge. Figgins is not rendering a lot of services right now anyway.
On the surface, this looks like a terrible idea. It looks better after considering a few numbers.
The Mariners are committed to paying Figgins about $4 million for the remainder of this season and $17 million for 2012 and 2013 combined. The Mariners might expect to squeeze three wins above replacement (WAR) from Figgins during that time, including the remainder of this season.
Suppose Figgins is cut and the Mariners employ another third baseman, who for the same time span (about 2.5 seasons) supplies seven WAR for $14 million.
The comparison then is between Figgins' three WAR for $21 million and the replacement third baseman's seven WAR for $35 million. The $35 million is the Mariners' salary obligation to Figgins plus the replacement's salary. This boils down to paying an additional $14 million to get an additional four WAR over 2.5 seasons.
The thing to remember here is that a big salary hit is a foregone conclusion. The Mariners need to decide how much more money they have to spend on production from third base.
The team could promote Kyle Seager too. Figgins' run production is so poor that a too-early promotion of Seager isn't likely to hurt the offense much, if at all. Seager's promotion might also satisfy impatient fans.
Taking the glass-half-full view, this strategy would spare the team and its fans a lot of pain. Figgins' woeful plate appearances would disappear. A better hitter at third might push the Mariners back into playoff contention.
The downside is that this path is very expensive. One of the two approaches discussed in the next slides is what I expect to see.