Having completed his rehab assignment (groin injury) with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, catcher Miguel Olivo has rejoined the Mariners. Figures: he’s already 0-for-3. But instead of clearing a roster spot for Olivo by jettisoning Chone Figgins, the logical (and an inevitable) move, the Mariners opted to send outfielder Casper Wells to the minors.
The Mariners are apparently not yet ready to endorse the $15 million-plus check it will take to make Figgins a prominent part of Seattle’s blighted free-agent past. Hard to blame GM Jack Zduriencik: it’s tough to admit to such a catastrophic mistake as Figgins, tougher still to write a check to cover the damages.
For Zduriencik, deep-sixing Figgins will be the equivalent of paying for a palace after it’s burned to the ground.
Eventually, and probably before the July 31 trade deadline, Zduriencik will have to admit that the $36 million over four years the Mariners awarded Figgins two years ago was not the best expenditure of company funds.
In fact, Figgins has no role on the team anymore. The Mariners have better defensive replacements at each of the positions he plays. Plus, he’s hitting .180, including .133 in his past 24 games.
Question: Is Figgins the worst free-agent investment in relatively recent Mariners annals?
Since Figgins is the unpalatable flavor of the moment, it would be easy to vote yes, absolutely. But the Mariners have much from which to choose. What about, say, Scott Spiezio? This guy hit .064 in 2005 when the Mariners had to eat $3 million of his $9.3 million salary after releasing him. Or what about any of these free agent wastes of roster space (listed alphabetically):
Rich Aurilia (2004): The Mariners signed Aurilia to a one-year deal worth $3,150,000 and wound up paying him $12,068 per at-bat in return for a .241 batting average in the half season that they employed him.
Miguel Batista (2007-09): The Mariners paid Batista $25 million over three years. He went 27-29, 4.84 ERA in 52 starts. In 2008, he had a 4-14 record and 6.26 ERA.
Carl Everett (2006): Mariners inked “Jurassic Carl,” who famously denied the existence of dinosaurs, to a one-year deal worth $3.4 million. They got 92 games — and a .227 batting average — out of him (they did get one walk-off home run).
Pokey Reese (2005): Mariners agreed with shortstop Reese on a one-year, $1.2 million contract. Injured, Reese never got on the field.
Carlos Silva (2008-09): Mariners signed the right hander to a four-year, $48 million deal that turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes the club ever made. After starting out 3-0 in 2008, Silva went 1-15 the rest of the way. In nine of his 28 starts, he surrendered at least five earned runs and finished with a 6.46 ERA. In his two Seattle seasons, Silva went 5-18, 6.81.
Jeff Weaver (2007): Signed to a one-year contract worth $8,325,000, Weaver lost his first six starts, marred by a 14.32 ERA. He needed a four-game winning streak in the second half to finish 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA in 27 starts (that he received 27 starts says much, none of it good).
Brad Wilkerson (2008): Mariner inked Wilkerson, after he’s been released by the Washington Nationals, to a one-year, $3 million deal. He made it through all of 19 games, or until April 30, hitting .232.
This list doesn’t include an array of trading mistakes that netted the likes of Milton Bradley, Eduardo Perez, Horacio Ramirez and Jose Vidro. But it does show that the Mariners have many avenues in which to screw up, which they did with Figgins and several other free agents. Which one was the worst?