M’s To Sign Figgins?
The Mariners are reportedly really close to signing Chone Figgins to a 4 year, ~$35 million contract. I’m pushing this out now because, while the deal isn’t done, I may not be around much this weekend, and the details aren’t likely to change much by the time it becomes official. Unless, of course, it doesn’t become official, in which case, BOOOOO.
There’s going to be a lot of discussion about this move as we go forward, and I know people will have different views of the signing. Here’s my quick take – we’ll do a full analysis at some point next week, when I have a bit more time.
Figgins projects as a +3 to +4 win player for 2010. Like signing Beltre, this will have the appearance of paying for a career year, but you don’t need him to come anywhere close to his 2009 numbers to justify the contract. At this price, the M’s have built in a lot of regression from his performance last year. $9 million a year is about what an average player signs for, and Figgins is a better than average player. The M’s are not paying Figgins like they expect him to have another +6 win season. So don’t get too upset about the fact that he just had a career year. They know that, and he’s not being paid like that performance is sustainable.
In terms of dollars per win, this is not the most efficient move they could have made. No matter what position he ends up playing, they had a younger player who could have produced 50-75 percent of the value for 5 percent of the cost. Given how much time we have spent over the years arguing for efficient spending, I get that it may be seen as a bit confusing that we are now in favor of a move that does not maximize dollars per win.
However, as we talked about earlier this off-season, the M’s are in a position where they have to consolidate value. They have a ton of decent, cheap, role players, but by going with those players at each spot, they limit the team’s upside to the point that a playoff berth becomes unlikely. Figgins consolidates value into one line-up spot, raising the upside of the team and increasing their odds of playing in October. This provides tangible value.
At the same time, Figgins versatility also significantly decreases the risk. He is the human form of diversification, offering the ability to play third, second, or left field, giving the team the ability to let Tui, Saunders, Lopez, Hannahan, and Hall earn playing time with improved performances. The ability to handle multiple positions makes all of the young players more valuable, because the risk of any of them killing the team with a terrible performance is mitigated – Figgins could replace any of them, giving the team options if Tui hits and Saunders doesn’t or vice versa.
When you get a guy who can simultaneously increase the upside and decrease the risk, you’ve got a valuable asset. As a player, Figgins is a great fit for this roster and ballpark. He’s coming at a price below what you would generally expect to pay for a +3 win player, and the wins he adds are more important in helping the M’s push toward a playoff spot, raising the marginal value of those wins (wins 80-90 are more important than 70-79 or 91-100).
He also has the type of skillset that ages well (despite claims to the contrary, fast guys are effective later into their careers than slow guys), and gives the M’s a significant offensive boost while maintaining their elite defense.
Overall, this is a good deal. It makes the team better at a below market price, increases the options the team has going forward, and allows them to give the young kids a shot to prove themselves without exposing the team to too much risk. Losing the first round pick is a blow, but it’s not a big enough one to offset the value Figgins is providing at this price.
This a good move for the M’s. Welcome to Seattle, Chone. (Assuming this gets done.)