Saturday, December 05, 2009

Mariners Ink Chone Figgins

In a development that could seriously weaken the California Angels, Chone Figgins has apparently decided to sign with the Seattle Mariners in a deal worth about $9 million per year. The Mariners have not yet announced there intentions concerning Adrian Beltre who is in his option year with that team. The Mariners could still pick up Beltre's option, decline it or Beltre can also do either. Both Beltre and Figgins are fine fielding third baseman. Beltre is the more spectacular of the two. Figgins has some flexibility so if Beltre stays, Figgins can play elsewhere.

If in fact the Mariners are "replacing" Beltre with Figgins, the trade off isn't as positive as you would think. Would you guess, for example, that Beltre has the higher career OPS+? Would you also guess that Beltre is younger than Figgins? But Figgins is an excellent lead off man. But wait, the Mariners already have one of those. His name is Ichiro Suzuki. What are the chances that Suzuki will not bat lead off? Uh. None. So that takes away one of Figgins' strengths. He then becomes a powerless Number 2 hitter who will have Ichiro on base in front of him. The two can create havoc of course with the stolen base threat. But until 2009 when Beltre suffered from a painful shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, Beltre produced good power numbers over his career which the Mariners will miss.

The Fan thinks that Beltre is poised for a bounce back year, especially if he signs in the National League where he had some great years. Figgins is useful as on on base threat with good speed (his caught stealing rate did increase this past year) and can play a handful of positions. But there is a strong possibility that Beltran could be the more valuable player overall this coming year, especially if his shoulder is healed and he is again healthy.

The biggest thing this signing does is weaken what the Angels do. They rely on aggressive base running and good defense to keep them in the hunt in the AL West. Figgins provided both of those things the past few years for the Angels and was a big part of their success. Of course, it cannot be forgotten that he utterly tanked in the past few post seasons, but you have to get to the post season before you can think about who does well once they get there.

The Fan isn't sure if this is a good deal for the Mariners or not. Beltre is a good player, much better than he's given credit for. But he was expensive and he's had some injury in his history. Figgins should help clog the bases along with Ichiro. But what will the Mariners have behind them to drive the pair in?

Desmond DeChone Figgins is a fun player that can really spark a team. He is also 31 and should see his speed diminish over the length of this contract. Once his speed is gone, what else does he have to offer? Well, he should get on base his share of times, and that is always a good thing.

Scutaro to Sign with Red Sox?

According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox have agreed to a two year deal with former Blue Jays' shortstop, Marco Scutaro, with an option for a third year. The cost of the deal hasn't been announced. Of course, with the Red Sox, the cost is irreverent as they have the money to spend. But this is a good deal for the right amount of length for the Boston team.

Scutaro might have had a career year in 2009. He had the most At Bats of his career. The Blue Jays put Scutaro at the top of the lineup and he responded with 90 walks, good for a .379 OBP. He scored 100 runs and played exceptional shortstop. He played so good at short, that he probably should have won the gold glove, with only ten errors and a RTOT well above league average. Scutaro also brings some flexibility as he can play the outfield and third. In fact, he's probably even more exceptional at third than he is at short (see his 39 RTOT at third in 2008).

There are two troubling things about the deal. Well, make that three. First, he is 34 and it seems unlikely that he is going to get better than he is. Secondly, he DID have a career year. His .282 batting average was far over his career .265 mark. Was 2009 an anomaly or can he repeat it this coming year. It certainly appears that he made a vast improvement in his pitch selection and it seems unlikely that this new found skill would diminish.

The third troubling part of this deal is that he couldn't have been terribly expensive, which makes one wonder why the Blue Jays wouldn't have wanted to sign him for a couple more years anyway. But you also have to wonder if the Blue Jays had any chance at signing him to begin with. First, Scutaro gets to go to one of the blue chip teams. Secondly, he gets a much better chance to participate in the post season. Lastly, he goes to a proven organization that just seems to be smarter than their counterparts. And also consider that if the money was about the same, the U. S. dollars are worth more (at least for the moment anyway).

The deal also brings up two other debates. First, Scutaro is a better player than any of the Red Sox' current shortstops, so forget the first debate. Forget the Fan mentioned it. But the other debate is where in the order Scutaro bats. The signing will bring up the age-old debate of if you'd rather have a high on base guy at the top of the batting order despite whether he has speed or not (Scutaro had 14 stolen bases in nineteen attempts). Scutaro isn't a catcher, and runs decently, but Jacobe Ellsbury stole 70 bases, but had an OBP 24 points lower than Scutaro. In the Fan's opinion, Wade Boggs was the second best lead off man in history behind Henderson and Henderson could run faster going backwards than Boggs could going forward. But, man, Boggs scored a lot of runs.

A player who gets on base is today's baseball nirvana. Everyone wants that and covets it. But it's hard to break out of the thinking that the lead off guy has to run like a deer. Ellsbury figures to get better plate discipline as he gets more experienced, but his walk rate did not increase dramatically this past year (7.0 percent compared to 2008's 6.7), so it does not appear that he grew any more likely to take a walk in his third full year. The Fan would start Scutaro at lead off and bat Ellsbury second.

This deal will give Blue Jay fans more reason to believe that the rich get richer in the AL East and it would be hard to blame them. But the Fan isn't convinced that Scutaro (not counting defense, where he is superb) will be able to duplicate his 2009 stats. History is not on his side.