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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Chone Figgins likely to survive Miguel Olivo’s return


(Photo by Associated Press)

UPDATE AT 1:10 P.M.: It is now official: Casper Wells optioned to Tacoma, Miguel Olivo activated.

The strong indications are that Casper Wells , and not Chone Figgins, will be the victim of Miguel Olivo’s return to the Mariner roster.

Nothing is official until Olivo actually arrives in Seattle, but as Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto reported, Olivo is no longer with Tacoma in Iowa. That indicates he’s heading back to Seattle to join the Mariners tonight as they open a four-game series with the Angels.

And assuming Olivo gets here and is activated for tonight’s game, l’m hearing from good sources that Wells will be optioned to Tacoma.

Frankly, I join the chorus who believe the time has come for Figgins to be removed from the Mariners’ roster. That would be a particularly poignant move to make just upon the arrival of the Angels — the team for which Figgins performed so well the Mariners were moved to give him a four-year, $36 million contract. I’m not going to second-guess that deal, because I liked it at the time. Most people liked it the time, even though it’s easy to bad-mouth now, because it has gone so specatularly wrong. Figgins hasn’t been anything close to the player the Mariners envisioned as a co-catalyst, with Ichiro, of the Mariners’ offense.

Moving him back to third base last year didn’t revive him. Moving him back to the leadoff spot this year didn’t revive him. And now Figgins has absolutely no role on this team. He is not even the prime backup choice at any position. If the Mariners need a backup third baseman, they turn to Alex Liddi. If they need a backup left fielder, they now turn to Liddi as well (Wells would also be a preferable option in a perfect world). If they need a backup shortstop, it’s Munenori Kawasaki. If they need a backup second baseman, they’ll move Kyle Seager over and play Liddi at third.

So it’s hard to see exactly why they’re keeping around Figgins, other than the $15 million or so they still owe him. Which, I admit, is a pretty powerful motivation — unless it’s not your money, which makes it a lot easier to say, “Dump him.” Perhaps the Mariners still think they can find trade value for Figgins down the road. Perhaps they think his versatility is still an asset to them (not indicated by the five at-bats he’s had since May 3). Or, most likely, they’re simply not ready to stomach writing the big check it would take to make him go away.

My counter-argument would be that replacing Figgins actually costs only about $480,000, which is the major-league minimum for the player likely to replace him on the roster. They’re going to pay Figgins the remainder of his contract whether he’s around or not. That’s irrevocable. So they might as well use that roster spot for someone who is actually going to help them, moving forward. And Wells, as a right-handed bat that Eric Wedge can deploy, is a better option for the Mariners right now than Figgins.

At any rate, it appears that Figgins is going to stay, and Casper Wells, for now, is headed down to the minors.



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