Chone Figgins used to be a good baseball player. He was a productive hitter and base runner with defensive versatility. He didn’t have much power but he always put the ball in play and used his legs to make an impact. Figgins played no small role on several very good Angels teams, posting around 20 Wins Above Replacement during his peak years.
Figgins then signed a semi-lucrative free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners. And then he got bad. After a disappointing first season in Seattle, he got much worse. Figgins lost his starting job in 2011, providing spots starts down the stretch and posting an ugly .188/.241/.243 slash line over 300+ plate appearances.
Figgins posted that scary slash after the Mariners moved him to third base to make room for competent baseball player Dustin Ackley. Despite moving Figgins up in the order to start the year, they don’t have a lot of faith in Chone. He is now a utility man, hitting as marginally better but still disgraceful .215/.278/.323 and making starts all over the diamond. Which, really, is a problem.
Sunday afternoon against the White Sox, Chone Figgins started for the Mariners in center field. It was his fourth such start this year. These four starts represent the only time Figgins has patrolled center field since 2006, which was I think six years ago.
The Seattle Mariners are a very bad offensive team. They are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball after being one of the worst offensive teams ever at times during the last two seasons. They’re abysmal. But this team, any team, can’t plug a better center fielder in than Chone freaking Figgins? I understand Michael Saunders struggles against left-handed pitching but…Chone Figgins! He isn’t any better and one would hope the Mariners haven’t completely given up on Saunders’ ability to hit left-handed pitching after 214 career plate appearances.
Saunders is bad against lefties but the switch-hitting Figgins is bad against everybody. This is not an upgrade, not in any way. Defensively, Figgins looks like a 34 year-old playing the position for the first time in half a decade. Not content with sticking a warm body into a defense-first position, the Chone Figgins is also the Mariners starting left fielder. The next start in left will match Figgins career high in a corner outfield position, and he’s about as good out there (-3 runs already according to Dewan’s DRS) as you would expect.
The Mariners are battling injuries but it speaks loudly (to me) that there isn’t a better option for the outfield than Chone freaking Figgins. The M’s are just trying to get something out of their failed investment. With a 2014 vesting option that activates with 600 plate appearances in 2013, don’t expect to see many more defensive experiments with Figgins once the real players — such as they are — return.