Mariners designate Figgins for assignment
The Mariners also acquired Robert Andino, a 28-year-old infielder, from Baltimore, in exchange for outfielder Trayvon Robinson.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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 any more. Instead, they opted to designate Figgins for assignment and eat the final $8.5 million owed on a $36-million contract initially signed with so much hope.
"I spoke to Chone just a little while ago," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a call with reporters Tuesday night. "I wished him the very best. 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. But he understands that it's time to turn the page and move forward.
"So, we wish him the very best and certainly hope that he'll land with someone else and it works out better for him."
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 handled 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 some 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.
In a phone interview he said that he gained some valuable experience with the Orioles as they marched toward an improbable playoff berth in September.
"It teaches you a lot of things about winning," said Andino, who hit .211 with an OPS of .588 last season. "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 between players as they took the Yankees to the limit in the division series.
"It is what it is," he said. "It's bittersweet because you have your relationship with your teammates that you've built over years. But now, it's time to move on, so that's what you do."
Zduriencik said he doesn't want to place any limitations on Andino for now by designating him for a specific role. He instead wants him to come to spring training and show what he can do.
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 against Boston 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.
Footage of the event was captured on television and replayed nationally. 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 that night.
Figgins continued to struggle in 2011, playing part of the first half with a sore hip and then missing much of the latter part of the season. Things were looking up after offseason hip surgery and a seemingly fresh slate from the Mariners, who reinstalled him at leadoff and moved Ichiro to the No. 3 spot.
But Figgins never did get it going and his short leash at a daily job was terminated by late April. Figgins refused to openly sulk about his plight, but was clearly not pleased with how little playing time he received the rest of the season.
Zduriencik said the experience with Figgins won't make him reluctant to go after other free agents. The team hasn't spent as much money on any free agent since Figgins was acquired, but Zduriencik said there's a limit to how much a team can prepare and learn about players ahead of time.
"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 is what we do. It's the business that we live in."