The San Francisco Giants Set An Example

In December 2007, Brian Sabean handed Aaron Rowand a piece of paper that said "sixty million dollars," and Rowand signed it because he didn't know what else to do. Five years, and $60 million. Rowand had just posted a 124 OPS+ the season before as a center fielder, but he had a career OPS+ of 106 and was entering his 30s. It was a hefty and risky investment.

And, unsurprisingly, it didn't work out. It almost immediately didn't work out, as Rowand wasn't very good in 2008. He wasn't very good in 2009, either, and then he got way worse in 2010. He didn't pick things up at all this year, so, finally, just a short while ago, the Giants designated Rowand for assignment.

By performance, it was an obvious move. Since the start of last season, Rowand's been as good a hitter as Orlando Cabrera and Jayson Nix, which is to say he hasn't been good at all, and he no longer had anywhere to play. What makes this a bigger deal is that Rowand was DFAd with a full year left on his contract, meaning the Giants just ate about $14 million to make him disappear. You don't see teams do that very often.

Which brings us to the Mariners, and Chone Figgins. Figgins is due $9 million in 2012, and $8 million in 2013. Here's a Figgins fun fact for you:

wOBA, 2010 - present:

Rowand: .279
Figgins: .276

Through the first two years of his contract, Figgins hasn't hit, and though he's been amenable to moving around the infield a little, he hasn't played great defense at either second or third. He's shown no signs that he's about to get better, and he no longer has a regular job. Also he's 33.

So what should the Mariners do with him? The argument against dropping him outright is that the Mariners still owe him those $17 million after this year. That's a lot of money to drop in a Honey Bucket. But then, so what? That money's already committed regardless. The important question is, can Figgins be of some positive use to this team in the future? And me, I don't see how. Or rather, I can see how, but I don't think it's very likely. I don't think Chone Figgins is a decent ballplayer anymore, and I'm also skeptical that Figgins would handle a bench role particularly well.

I don't think Chone Figgins' contract is a contract worth trying to salvage, and though dropping him would require that the Mariners eat a lot of money, the Giants just ate nearly that much with their own disappointment. Not that the Mariners should necessarily be taking their roster management cues from Brian Sabean, but I don't see anything to argue with here.

Sabean isn't the first guy to eat a bunch of money, either. I can't find a historical list of players who had their expensive contracts bought out, but in 2006 the Diamondbacks designated Russ Ortiz for assignment with $22 million and 2.5 years left on his deal. Ortiz was a special brand of terrible, one of the very worst pitchers in recent baseball history, but what matters is that the money was eaten. The front office decided they could do more without the player than with the player.

If the Mariners see something in Figgins that I don't, then that's great. If they believe strongly that he could bounce back, then it's their call. But Figgins' contract isn't reason enough for keeping him on the team. Figgins' contract is bad, but Figgins as a player is worse, and it seems to me it's just about time for the team to move on.

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