Three years into a contract that called for four, the Mariners finally pulled the plug on a Chone Figgins odyssey that will loom in franchise infamy.
The Mariners had to finalize their 40-man roster Tuesday ahead of the upcoming Rule 5 draft and decided they could no longer carry their most expensive position player when he hardly ever played for them anymore. Instead, they opted to designate Figgins for assignment and eat the final $8.5 million owed on a $36 million contract.
“I spoke to Chone just a little while ago,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a call with reporters Tuesday night. “He was very gracious, said he was really appreciative of his time here in Seattle.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way he thought it would work out or that we thought it would work out.”
The Mariners technically have 10 days to trade Figgins, release him or outright him to the minors – though he could refuse a minor league stint and opt for free agency. Even Zduriencik seemed to concede almost zero chance of trading Figgins at this point after spending the past several weeks and months exploring possibilities.
“I had talked to many clubs, I had a lot of calls,” Zduriencik said. “There was some curiosity if you will, but I didn’t have anyone say they would take him, otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten to this point.”
The writing was on the wall for Figgins, 34, earlier in the day when the Mariners completed a trade with Baltimore that brought infielder Robert Andino to Seattle in exchange for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Andino, 28, performs a variety of infield roles and can play the outfield in a pinch, much the backup role that Figgins had filled the latter part of last season.
The Mariners will likely use Andino as their backup infielder next season, taking over the role handed by Munenori Kawasaki before his release.
The team also designated for assignment recently acquired outfielder Scott Cousins, then added third baseman Vinnie Catricala, left-handed pitcher Anthony Fernandez, left-handed pitcher Bobby Lafromboise, right-handed pitcher Brandon Maurer and outfielder Julio Morban to their 40-man roster.
Robinson showed defensive improvement during a second-half call-up this season, but was behind several other fourth-outfielder types squeezing him out of a roster spot. He hit just .215 with an on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .602 in 319 plate appearances for the Mariners in two stints after being acquired as part of the Erik Bedard trade in July 2011.
Andino hit .211 with a .588 OPS last season as mainly a second baseman, but feels his most natural position is as a shortstop – something the Mariners place at a premium on the defensive side when they consider any utility infielder. He earned $1.3 million and is arbitration-eligible, meaning he’ll likely come in at just under $2 million for 2013.
“It teaches you a lot of things about winning,” said Andino of Baltimore’s improbable playoff berth. “Just little things inside of the game that you need in order to come out on top.”
Andino added that the day was somewhat bittersweet, given his years with Baltimore and the bond formed among players as they took the Yankees to the limit in the division series.
The Mariners chose to move on from Figgins, who opened the season as the team’s leadoff hitter but then failed to last a month at the job.
Figgins arrived in Seattle in December 2009 fresh off a career-best .395 on-base percentage with the Los Angeles Angels.
But he struggled in the first half of 2010 after a move to the No. 2 spot in the order and a shift from third base to second. By July of that year, with the Mariners out of contention, he likely sealed a negative reputation in Seattle for good by engaging in a dugout confrontation with then-manager Don Wakamatsu.
Figgins had been pulled from a game at Safeco Field for what was perceived by Wakamatsu to have been some sloppy defensive play. In the dugout, Figgins and Wakamatsu had words and then had to be physically separated.
Wakamatsu would be fired by August, but fans never seemed to forgive Figgins, who, to this day, has never apologized or expressed regret for what happened.
Zduriencik said the experience with Figgins won’t make him reluctant to go after other free agents.
“At the end of the day, any decision you make always has the possibility of being really good, somewhere in the middle or bad,” he said. “It’s the business that we live in.”