News that Chone Figgins will be moved back to third base by the Mariners is one of those “I wondered when theyd get around to that moments.
From the December day when general manager Jack Zduriencik traded Jose Lopez, his third baseman last year, it made sense that Figgins would be asked to move back.
Figgins had his greatest offensive and defensive moments at third for his previous club, the Angels. The move to second base hurt him defensively and probably impacted his offense, although hed never say the move was a factor in his troubled debut season with the Mariners.
He is, or at least was, a well-above average third baseman defensively. Perhaps going back to what is his natural position will allow him to take his at-bats without having to spend time worrying about his defense.
Figgins was a third baseman with the Angels for the bulk of his career in Anaheim, and third base was open when he signed with Seattle. But rather than have him move to take over the spot long held by Adrian Beltre, then-manager Don Wakamatsu and Zduriencik asked Figgins to move to second while Lopez moved to third.
He did, with mixed results.
The acquisition from the Cardinals of versatile infielder Brendan Ryan, who signed a two-year, $2.75 million contract Thursday that avoids arbitration, means that he becomes the default second baseman, and that the Mariners should have solid infield defense. But Figgins, Ryan and shortstop Jack Wilson dont figure to be major upgrades to an offense that was the worst in baseball last year en route to a last place 101 losses.
“Im not going to say who is going to play where (other than Figgins), Zduriencik told Sportspressnw.com Friday. “What I will say is that there is going to be a lot of competition for jobs this year. And competition should make everybody better.
The competition will include Woodinvilles Matt Tuiasosopo, who is coming off an injury. He will try and back up third base and serve in a utility role. Also on the radar is 2009 first-round draft pick Dustin Ackley, a second baseman who finished 2010 at Triple-A Tacoma.
Hes generally considered to need about another half-season at Tacoma, but its not out of the question that he could be in Seattle sooner.
“With Dustin, you have to look at whats good for him now and down the line, Zduriencik said. “Hell get a good look this spring. And the same for Tui. This is a time for younger players to step up, because there are opportunities.
There are other moves in store for the roster in the run up to the start of spring training next month. For the moment, the infield looks set with second-year first baseman Justin Smoak rounding out the group.
This much is sure the Mariners arent going to go into debt in pursuit of free agents. There may be an inexpensive pickup or two between now and the start of festivities in Peoria, AZ., but there isn’t going to be any headline-stealing news coming out of free agency where the Mariners are concerned.
And given that Zduriencik is committed to building the club from within, a big trade seems unlikely.
“Were pretty close on how much we have to spend, Zduriencik said, acknowledging that Santa didnt leave an extra $100 million.
Seattles payroll is expected to come in at about $94 million this season, almost exactly what the Mariners spent a year ago.
John Hickey is also a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)