Free at last. Free at last. Free at last.
That describes Chone Figgins, released with one year left on his contract.
It also describes the Mariners, who won’t have a veteran with no future clogging up the roster.
In the most noticeable move setting up the 40-man roster in looking ahead to the winter meetings next month, Jack Zduriencik Tuesday night pulled the plug on the first big free agent contract he handed out as Seattle general manager, designating Figgins for assignment. The club has 10 days to trade him or release him.
Figgins came aboard three years ago to pair up with Ichiro at the top of the lineup, signing a four-year, $36 million deal that became a boondoggle.
He was due to make $8 million for 2013, and had an option for the 2014 season for $9 million. Zduriencik has to believe the money is better spent letting Figgins play against him, because for three years the veteran infielder’s play had been staggeringly disappointing. There were injuries, but by the past season, Figgins was being used only as a backup by manager Eric Wedge. Now that spot can go to someone in whom Wedge has some faith.
Figgins didn’t return phone calls or texts Tuesday. But on the last day of the season, he told sportspressnw.com he wanted out.
“I can’t take two more years of this,” he said, alluding not just to next year but to his option for the 2014 season. “I need to be somewhere else. I know I can still play, but it’s not going to happen here.”
Tuesday’s move guaranteed that.
Zduriencik said the final decision was made Tuesday, but that he’d been kicking around the idea seriously for a couple of weeks. If pressed, he might have admitted he thought about it for much longer than that, because Figgins at his salary has zero trade value.
It’s a tough thing to throw $8 million out the window. It’s also tough to play virtually with a 24-man roster. Zduriencik couldn’t balance the two. For once in Seattle, money didn’t win.
“As we looked at the roster additions and subtractions (it made sense),” Zduriencik said. “He’d been here three years and it hadn’t worked out. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while.
Asked why Figgins’ addition didn’t work – he was a .291 hitter with the Angels with a .363 on-base percentage but just .227 and .302 with Seattle – Zduriencik said Figgins simply “never clicked” as a Mariner.
“Anyone’s guess is as good as mine,” the GM said. “At the time of the signing, it looked like it was the right thing for all of us. He was excited. We thought it would be a good combination with him and Ichiro, and it didn’t work out.”
Wow. Is that ever true.
Zduriencik said that in his conversation Tuesday with Figgins, the veteran said “he understood now was the time to move on.”
The Figgins move was the Mariners’ big news, but not the only news of the day. The club traded outfielder Trayvon Robinson to Baltimore in exchange for infielder Robert Andino, who will be given a chance this spring to show himself as a shortstop but who figures to be the backup, the role held by Munenori Kawasaki in 2012.
“It was a trade for need in getting Andino,” Zduriencik said. “He’s played in the competitive AL East on a playoff club. He can play multiple positions, and we had the need to make a move for an infielder.”
Scott Cousins, the outfielder picked up on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays, joined Figgins in being designated for assignment. The Mariners have 10 days to trade or release him, too, but unlike Figgins, the club may try to sign him to a minor league deal.
Those moves dropped down the 40-man roster to 35. The Mariners then moved up five players: First baseman/third baseman Vinnie Catricala, outfielder Julio Morban, left-handed pitchers Anthony Fernandez and Bobby LaFromboise and right-hander Brandon Maurer.
“Brandon has a lot of upside, and we’re excited about Julio,” Zduriencik said. “Vinnie had a tough year, but last year he was our minor league player of the year, so we’re hoping he’ll bounce back.”