Now this one isn’t a joke or a parody or anything. I’m deadly serious about this.
Some of you might remember my AL Least Valuable Player piece back at the end of the regular season and you might remember that Figgins was on the short list for the poll at the end. Dunn was the biggest vote-getter, but my personal vote went to Mr. Chone Figgins himself. His 2011 was atrocious by any measure. His OPS was .484! Can you believe that! Even our own Brandon Inge managed a .548 OPS on his way to Mud Hen purgatory and eventual platoon redemption. He’s also playing out a lucrative contract which will give him $9 million next year and $8 million in 2013. There’s a vesting option if he plays all season in 2013, but I’m not sure that’s all that relevant. So… what you’re probably asking now if you were ever thinking anything else is ‘why on earth would the Tigers want to deal for that pile of garbage?’.
Well, ‘buy low’ my friend ‘buy low’. Figgins has played a lot of second base and third base, though his numbers are so erratic from season to season that it’s hard to tell if he’s actually good at it without seeing him play much. Figgins is also fast, even if at 33 he’s not as fast as he used to be, and he knows a thing or two about stealing a base. Over his career as a whole (even if we include last year’s fiasco) his strikeout rate is a moderate 15% and his walk rate is an admirable 10% leading to a .352 lifetime on-base percentage and a prototypical leadoff hitter. Of course anybody giving Figgins a roster spot at this point is doubling down and hoping the next card flipped is nothing like the last card, but a prototypical leadoff hitter is something the Tigers clearly lack and clearly need. And as far as gambles go, betting that Figgins’ 2012 BABIP is closer to his .329 career number than the .215 mark he put up in 2011 doesn’t look all that bad. Seattle seems to suck the life out of batters at home and on the road just like Denver does to pitchers, compare Adrian Beltre’s number during his albatross contract stay in Seattle to what he has done since he left.
Positives and negatives are a bit of a poor way to evaluate a guy like Figgins. Last year he had no strengths aside from a decent glove, I suppose and a bit of speed on the basepaths. Every year before that his primary strength was good OBP from a guy that gets hit, draws walks and was always a threat to wind up on third once he made it to first. He’s also a switch-hitter, and hits righties better than lefties, something the Tigers can seemingly always use (except maybe against Texas.)
Basically ‘hitting’ in 2011 was his weakness. His glove at second doesn’t look terrific either, at least statistically speaking. He’s also aging and could have a game so dependent on speed that he can’t transform as he gets older a la Kenny Lofton. Really, we’d still consider his weaknesses to be the risk that he won’t bounce back and the fact that in the best of times he never had any pop.
Given his salary and his performance, I think that if the Tigers were willing to absorb Figgins’ full contract they could probably pry him away from the Mariners for the price of a single Cheeto. He was SO bad, that even if the Mariners were to pay a significant portion of said contract, the price would probably be no higher than the full bag of Cheetos. Since no-one seems to literally exchange Cheetos for talent: in baseball terms, I’d say a bag of Cheetos would equal something in the neighborhood of a Jared Wesson.
You might think that a Figgins acquisition would be ‘too risky’, but that depends on who is risking what. Since he would take basically nothing to get ahold of, the risk in trading for Figgins would be entirely monetary. So… if Illitch is looking for ways to reinvest those Guillen savings into the club, and can’t find any free agents that look appealing, gambling $10 million over two years that Figgins will return to form (and maybe teach AJax how to steal…) is better than sitting on it – at least as far as Tigers fans are concerned. Let’s be honest here, though. Figgins is not where I would prefer that the Tigers invest that money, but I can think of worse expenditures and worse bets too.