The Mariners sliced the umbilical with Chone Figgins Tuesday, preferring to eat the remaining $8.5 million on his contract rather than have him take up space in the dugout again. Figgins joins an ever-expanding list of free-agent busts that have plagued Seattle’s various sports franchises. Question is, how high does Figgins rank in the pantheon of pathetics?
Figgins joined the Mariners, from the Angels, three years ago as the first major free agent signed by GM Jack Zduriencik (four years, $36 million). For the $27 million Figgins received, he delivered a .227 batting average with an on-base percentage of .302 in 308 largely lamentable games. Last year, when Figgins raked in $9 million, Figgins hit .181 in just 66 games, having been reduced largely to a spectator.
“It just didn’t work out,” Zduriencik said Tuesday after deciding it was better to throw away $8.5 million than to keep Figgins on the roster.
Many Seattle general managers have echoed a similar sentiment over the years, none more than the individuals who signed the following, who will be listed in alphabetical order so as to not unduly influence your opinion.
Rich Aurilia, 2004 Mariners. The Mariners not only paid Aurilia $12,068 per at-bat in return for a .241 average in the half-season they employed him, they traded away future All-Star shortstop Carlos Guillen to the Detroit Tigers to make room.
Vin Baker, 1997-02 Sonics. After the first year of the less-than-legendary Baker-Shawn Kemp trade in 1997, the Sonics thought they did all right – the 6-foot-11 Baker had an All-Star year and averaged 19.2 points. But following the 1998-99 labor lockout, Baker ballooned to nearly 300 pounds and was frequently hurt. Nevertheless, when he opted for free agency, the Sonics, seeing no other worthy stiffs, re-signed him to a six-year deal worth $86.7 million – one of the greatest fleece jobs in franchise history. Baker lasted three years in a state of semi-torpor before a trade to Boston. Years later, he revealed that he had become an alcoholic who binged in hotel rooms and at home after playing poorly.
Calvin Booth, 2001-04 Sonics. Nicknamed “Puss ‘n’ Booth” by a sportswriter, Booth was terrible, which should have been no surprise. The Sonics stunned the NBA when they signed a guy who had played for four teams in four years to a six-year, $34 million contract. He played sparingly in 133 games over the next three and a half years, averaging 3.5 points per game.
Mike Felder, 1993 Mariners: Although GM Woody Woodward trumpeted the signing (for a then-munificent sum of $1.8 million over two years) of Felder as the dawn of an “exciting” Mariners era, it merely added evidence for the case that if a .211 hitter could be located anywhere in the world, the Mariners would find him.
Chone Figgins, 2010-12 Mariners: Zdurencik said Figgins “never clicked” in Seattle. Asked why, Zduriencik told John Hickey, “Anyone’s guess is as good as mine. 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.” (see Hickey’s story here).
Greg Hibbard, 1994 Mariners. He went 15-11 for the Chicago White Sox in 1993, but Hibbard lapsed to 1-5 with a 6.20 ERA in his one dismal season in Seattle. Hibbard departed having left this club record behind: Most hits allowed in a nine-inning game, 15 on May 24, 1994 vs. Oakland – in six innings.
Jim McDaniels, 1972 Sonics. Famous for once telling Sports Illustrated that he returned a Cadillac he had purchased because “the steering wheel didn’t tilt the right way,” McDaniels was the Sonics’ second-round pick in 1971, but began his pro career in the rival American Basketball Association with the Carolina Cougars, who signed him to a $1.35 million contract payable over 25 years. Soon disgruntled with that deal, McDaniels jumped to the Sonics. But his career tanked. McDaniels, who averaged 26.8 points per game in the ABA, averaged just 5.5 points per game in two Seattle years, which ended when coach/GM Bill Russell cut him.
Jim McIlvaine, 1996-98 Sonics. After a season with Washington in which he had averaged only 2.3 points and three rebounds, Sonics president Wally Walker, who three years later would offer Vin Baker $86.7 million, gave the 7-foot center a seven-year, $33.6 million free-agent contract. It not only quickly became the most idiotic free-agent signing in the history of the franchise because McIlvaine couldn’t play, it backfired in another way. The signing angered team star Shawn Kemp, causing a rift from which the team never recovered. It led to the trading of Kemp to Cleveland in a three-way deal that brought Baker from Milwaukee, another huge, expensive mistake.
Nate Odomes, 1994 Seahawks. He starred on Buffalo Bills teams that made four Super Bowls, but after the Seahawks lavished a $2.2 million signing bonus on the Pro Bowl defensive back, he never played a down. He injured his right knee in a pick-up basketball game, then after serious repair surgery, blew out the same knee in mini-camp.
Carlos Silva, 2008-09 Mariners: Due to a bankrupt farm system, the Mariners tried to re-tool for 2008 by signing Silva, a free-agent right-hander, to a four-year, $48 million contract. It turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes the Mariners ever made. After starting out 3-0, Silva went 1-15 the rest of the year as batters pounded him like a pinata. In nine of his 28 starts, Silva surrendered at least five earned runs, enabling him to finish a botched season with a 6.46 ERA. For the $20.5 million he received before the Mariners cut him loose, Silva returned a 5-18 record and 6.81 ERA in 34 starts.
Scott Spiezio, 2004-05 Mariners: Signed to a three-year, $9.3 million contrct, the third baseman hit .198 during his 141-game stint with the club (2004-05). By contrast, Mario Mendoza (he of the infamous Mendoza Line), the all-time poster player for inept batting, compiled a .218 average in his 262-game Seattle career (1979-80). Spiezio hit .064 in 2005 when the Mariners had to eat $3 million of his salary after releasing him. Besides being a waste of roster space, Spiezio and his girlfriend assaulted a Chicago taxi driver not long after the Mariners got rid of him.
Jeff Weaver, 2007 Mariners: After the club signed Weaver to a one-year, $8,325,000 contract, he started his Seattle career 0-6 with a 14.32 ERA (14 earned runs allowed in his first two starts). Weaver needed a four-game winning streak from Aug. 7-23 to finish 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA, and the Mariners wasted no time releasing Weaver once the season ended.
Cedric Woodard, 2001-04 Seahawks. A defensive tackle, Woodard signed a five-year, $15 million contract and did almost nothing over the next four seasons. He made 12 starts in 2003 and just 28 for his entire Seattle tenure. In all, Woodward appeared in 60 games for Seattle and recorded just one sack.
So our question is . . .