Chone Figgins next to food - Jed Jacobsohn
Earlier this afternoon, I was perusing the Seattle Mariners' current roster when I noticed the damnedest thing. "There's Chone Figgins!" I exclaimed. "He's still on it!" He's there indeed, right between Dustin Ackley and Alex Liddi. This discovery got me wondering, and below, I present six possible reasons for why Chone Figgins isn't yet an ex-Mariner. Because there has to be at least one reason, doesn't there? Everything happens for a reason, as we covered the other day. Or doesn't happen, as it were. Anyhoo.
You know who's been really bad as a Seattle Mariner? Chone Figgins. He's been as bad a hitter as Jeff Cirillo, without the defense. He's been as bad a hitter as Brendan Ryan, without the defense. He was a major free-agent investment and almost immediately he went tits-up in the water. The last two years he's been dreadful when he's played. Not super long ago Figgins expressed his frustration and all but asked out. He's confident he can still play and he doesn't see a future in Seattle. So the Mariners might be hanging onto Figgins to punish him for the damage he's done. Figgins didn't help the Mariners succeed the last few years, so the Mariners won't help Figgins succeed in 2013. If there's one sign of a well-run, successful organization, it's a willingness to punish a player by keeping him on the active roster.
On my desk, behind my laptop, is a Portland Beavers Lewis & Clark tandem bobblehead, given to me by friendly local reader pdb. Now that I think about it, it's been on my desk for as long as I can remember, but I kind of forget that it's there because it's behind my monitor and I don't often look at the back of my desk. So sometimes I'll be like "oh yeah, that! That's weird!" The Mariners might have simply forgotten that they still have Chone Figgins on them. He basically stopped playing last May and he doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd. He could've just slipped the Mariners' mind. In such an event they'll be dealt a harsh reality check when they see his name and face on next year's big giant video board. "The 1s in his batting average are taller than he is!"
Team hopes you forgot
Okay, these are the Mariners, they're probably aware of who is and is not a Mariner. They need to be, because this is their business. This is not your business, by trade, so you are probably less aware of things. Figgins did basically stop playing in May. He just existed on the bench, but by not ever playing, philosophers may wonder whether he truly existed at all, at least within the public consciousness. Maybe the Mariners think you've forgotten about Chone Figgins. It would've been easy. Maybe the Mariners think that, by dumping Chone Figgins, it would re-open an old wound and get people all frustrated again at how badly it all went. Calling attention to Chone Figgins would be calling attention to a free-agency disaster, so perhaps the Mariners prefer to just leave him there on the figurative bookshelf, between other, bigger books.
Chone Figgins sure can play a lot of positions! Okay, so the last two years, he's posted the lowest position-player WAR in baseball, a full win worse than Adam Dunn in half the time. Okay, so as a Mariner, Figgins has managed a -0.9 WAR in more than 1200 plate appearances. He can sure play a lot of positions! And in his last year as an Angel he was really good so you never know. Yeah, he's 34, and he'll be 35 in January, and he might, might project to be replacement-level, but how can you dump a guy like this? Who are you going to replace him with, Josh Wilson? Do you think players like Josh Wilson grow on trees? Examine the nearest tree. Do you see Josh Wilson, or a player like him? There's too much value in a player who can be absolutely shitty in a bunch of different places. Also you can't forget about Figgins' positive influence in the clubhouse and the dugout.
If the Mariners dumped Figgins, they'd be responsible for his entire remaining salary. Of course, the Mariners are already responsible for his entire remaining salary, but if they dumped Figgins and added a replacement at the league-minimum salary, they'd be paying more money by the cost of the league-minimum salary. That's something like half of a million dollars! Unless somebody else were to sign Figgins for the bench, and then they'd pay Figgins the league minimum, and the Mariners would be responsible for Figgins' entire remaining salary less the league minimum. But what if nobody else were to sign Figgins? Then the Mariners would owe the cost of his replacement. That's a financial risk. A great reason to hang onto a player is being afraid that no other team would want to sign that player to a risk-free contract at the league minimum. Gotta worry about money when you're dealing with less than a million dollars. Have you ever seen what the MLB league-minimum salary looks like in piles of ones? The Mariners are right to be nervous.
The Mariners signed Chone Figgins to a four-year contract. Through three years, it has been a catastrophe, but the contract isn't up yet, meaning Figgins still has time to work out and be a hero. Meaning the Mariners still have a chance to not have made a mistake. The Mariners might have so much pride that they refuse to admit they screwed up by handing Figgins such a commitment. If there's one thing that everybody can respect, it's an individual who stubbornly sticks to his guns even in the face of being completely and utterly wrong. What's the sense in admitting you made a mistake? It's not like you can ever learn anything from them and self-improve.
Chone Figgins is still on the Seattle Mariners. I can't imagine why he still would be come opening day, but I've thought such things before, and still Figgins remains. He's in his mid-30s and he's bad and he's displeased and he's lost so many steps he's lost a whole staircase. The difference between Chone Figgins and his replacement isn't the difference between a playoff Mariners team and a non-playoff Mariners team in 2013, so in that sense this isn't really important, but what's the message, here? This could be such an easy PR win. Such an easy PR win. The Mariners have struggled with their public relations, on account of opposing the Seattle arena and losing a lot, and they could make people happy by cutting Chone Figgins, even if his removal would be mostly symbolic. The Mariners would give people a reason to smile, and I can't believe they haven't done it already. The Mets did it already with Jason Bay. So what if you can make an argument that Figgins could conceivably be a decent bench player in 2013? He doesn't want that. We don't want that. Decent bench players are available everywhere for cheap, and there are some already in the system. Just...Chone Figgins is still on the Seattle Mariners. It's November 16, 2012. Chone Figgins is still on the Seattle Mariners. He ought to not be.