Time for Mariners to waive Chone Figgins, play the kids
Seattle must decide what to do when it brings up Miguel Olivo. Here's some unsolicited advice: give up on Chone Figgins.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Even the good news gets tricky in a rebuilding year.
Down at Tacoma, catcher Miguel Olivo's rehabilitation continues on schedule. He's expected to catch a full nine innings Wednesday and should be back with the Mariners by the weekend.
His return forces the Mariners to make a hard decision. Do the Mariners keep the kids or the codger?
Do they send either infielder Alex Liddi or outfielder Casper Wells, both of whom have options left, to Tacoma? Or do they waive veteran utility man Chone Figgins?
"We've got an idea of what we're going to do," Wedge said before Tuesday night's game with Texas. "But I've been here 100 times and less than 24 hours after we think we've made a decision, things just change that quick. We're going to wait as long as we have to make that decision."
Here's a suggestion: waive Figgins.
And please don't argue that it means eating the rest of his salary. The Mariners should be dyspeptic by now from eating his money. The team still owes him about $15.65 million for the next two seasons, but what are they going to get for their money if they keep him?
Signing him looked like a good idea at the time. He seemed to fit what general manager Jack Zduriencik and then-manager Don Wakamatsu were trying accomplish. But Figgins hasn't been the same since he signed his big deal.
He hit .259 his first year here and .188 last season. He's hitting .180 this year. His on-base percentage is .245.
Figgins, 34, has no role on this team. He lost his leadoff spot. He rarely gets into the lineup. Maybe he's the most versatile player on the team, but playing him just takes innings and at bats away from younger players with promise.
In a different setting, he could be the veteran role model who helps the young players in their development. But he hasn't been much of a leader.
Liddi, 23, and Wells, 27 need to be here. This is their audition season. And, because of his age, Wells really needs to play now.
Figgins, on the other hand, already has decided his fate. Maybe he can go somewhere else and reclaim his reputation, but it isn't going to happen here. He needs a change of scenery and, more important, the Mariners need him to move on.
The very question of what do to when Olivo returns points out the thorniness of Wedge's job.
So much of this season is devoted to the very difficult job of talent evaluation. Who's real? And who's raw? Who's ready? And who isn't? Who needs to play? And who needs to be moved?
It takes several years for the answers to become obvious. Jesus Montero looks like a future 30-homer, 100-RBI guy. Kyle Seager is playing like a solid major-leaguer. Dustin Ackley may never be the next Chase Utley, but he looks as if he's going to have a long, strong big-league career.
It is too early to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Liddi or Wells. But all of them have shown enough to warrant much longer looks through the summer.
This season belongs to the kids and managing a team as young as the Mariners, a team that is looking past this season, can be torture. The joke is, the manager of a rebuilding team is rebuilding it for the next manager.
But Wedge has been patient. He has coddled the kids when they've needed it. And he's been firm and tough when it has been required. He is the right manager for the rebuilding project and beyond.
During Tuesday's batting practice I asked him how much of his lineup card is based on winning that day's game and how much is based on figuring out the future.
"The priority up here is always winning," he said. "But player development is a big part of what we're doing up here just because of our youth. We're coming out here to win every night, but we're doing it with young kids.
"There's certain points in time when you make decisions, even throughout the course of a ballgame that's about development. You feel like if you give this kid one more out, or one more ab (at-bat), or you give him a little bit more of an opportunity, it's going to come back and he's going to help you win more games down the road. That's the Catch-22."
Give this season to the kids.
Keep Liddi and Wells. Waive Figgins.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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