With Chone Figgins being designated for assignment by the Mariners yesterday, all signs point to the once productive player hitting the free agent market. Ian Riccaboni and I sat down to discuss whether Figgins might be an option worth exploring for the Phillies.
I say yes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Chone Figgins?! This guy can’t be serious! And that’s an understandable reaction. Because, let’s be honest, Figgins has been unequivocally bad the last two years–that’s why he got designated for assignment in the first place.
But, assuming he clears waivers–and all signs indicate that he will–I do believe Ruben Amaro, Jr. should at least put in a call to Tommy Tanzer, Figgins’s agent. Should that conversation go well, and there doesn’t seem to be any major interest from other teams for the services of the once highly-touted infielder, then Amaro should tender him an offer. Nothing huge. In fact, it should be a minor league deal with an invite to spring training at most.
At this point, you’re probably ready to pull your hair out. You’re asking questions like, ‘Why would the Phillies waste their time on this guy?’ and ‘What’s the point?’
The point is this: The Phillies desperately need to find a third baseman for next year and the market for that particular position is barren. The prospect of Kevin Youkilis–an aging player on the downside of his career who is likely to get more years and money than he’s worth–doesn’t exactly thrill me, and he’s probably the best third baseman on the market. The dearth of readily available talent at the hot corner, coupled with the fact that the team will have to allocate funds to multiple other positions, forces Amaro to get creative in finding a solution at third. Much like he did last offseason when searching for a left fielder, Amaro needs to exhaust every avenue and give himself and Charlie Manuel multiple options to fill that hole.
Here’s the other thing. I can’t believe that Figgins has regressed this much in just two year’s time. He’s gone from a perennial 3.5 WAR player to a -1.0 WAR player. Something about that doesn’t add up. Obviously players see their skills dissipate with age, but Figgins is only 34. He’s not exactly an old man. Just a written off one. He’s also battled injuries the last two seasons, appearing in 81 and 66 games, respectively. Not to mention he was victimized by the extremely low BABIP of .215 in 2011 and .237 in 2012. These are all things out of the player’s control.
I see Figgins as a low risk, high reward-type guy. The Phillies shouldn’t put all of their eggs in the Figgins basket, but they should give him a chance. Where’s the harm in a minor league deal? Should he prove to be as bad as he has played the last two seasons, the Phils can cut him in Spring Training and be done with it. But if he shows Manuel and the coaching staff something in Spring Training, he could become a productive player at a very low cost.
Fans with their doubts about taking a flier on a forgotten man need to look no further than last season, when the Phillies took a chance on Juan Pierre and he became a solid contributor. Could Figgins work out the same way? There’s no way of knowing. But it’s certainly worth a shot.
Now here’s Ian Riccaboni to tell you why I’m nuts:
Figgins signed a four-year deal with the Mariners after being heavily courted by the Mets, Cubs, White Sox, and the Phillies following a career year with the Angels. Figgins posted a line of .298/.395/.393 with five home runs and 42 steals in 59 attempts, playing top-notch defense at third and playing suitable defense at second. Since signing that deal, Figgins has gone from potential bargain to disappointment to disaster.
Figgins turns only 35 in January but his skillset has deteriorated at a pace expected for a player on the other side of 40. Everything about his lines and injury history say stay away: Figgins was limited to just 313 and 194 PA in 2011 and 2012, posting lines of .188/.241/.243 and .181/.262/.271 with SB totals of 11 and 4. His defense, once among his biggest assets, is now a liability, costing the Mariners approximately 18 runs over his three years there.
Don’t get me wrong: I am as surprised as anybody that such a promising player as Figgins had such a car-crash ending to a mega-contract. The Mariners designated him for assignment yesterday and he will get a second chance. If he clears waivers, which he will, and the Phillies can invite him to Spring Training, he would be an intriguing bench piece. But he is a definite no to me for the 2013 Phillies roster.