Now I’m not saying it’s going to happen, and to my knowledge there haven’t been any rumors floating around of this (scary) kind. But if the Mariners decide their big free agent splash isn’t worth it and he clears waivers, I can see Jim Hendry being tempted to kick the tires on infielder/leadoff-type Chone Figgins. Does the move make sense, and would I encourage Hendry to do it? Absolutely not. Yet if it happened I wouldn’t be surprised and there are number reasons for this.
First, Hendry’s figurative days (in this case years) as GM of the Cubs are numbered if there isn’t improvement, and he knows it. And while it seems to make perfect the sense that the organization launch into a cost-saving, foundation-setting rebuilding period with young players from the system, I don’t know if Hendry is totally on board with that idea. I say that in part because he’s been relatively non-commital when it comes to Ryne Sandberg aka the manager that fits that situation very well. It’s also commonplace that with a rebuilding effort comes some lumps, which Hendry may not be able to afford. Therefore he may try to prop the veteran window open for a little longer, even though it shut for all intents and purposes after 2009.
Should he decide that is the best route to take with the organization (and I pray he doesn’t), Figgins might look pretty attractive to him. The lack of a true leadoff hitter has dogged Hendry’s Cubs team his entire tenure. He was so desperate for one that he gave up too much minor league talent to acquire Juan Pierre in 2006. Figgins is having a dreadful debut season in Seattle and with a fairly big contract and could end up on the waiver wire. By my very rough calculation he’s got around $2.7 million remaining this season and $26 million over the next three seasons.
Figgins is still walking a lot and stealing bases, but that’s about it. There would seem to be no baseball logic in the move: a bad team picking up a possibly declining, relatively expensive veteran off the waiver wire. You could point to Alex Rios as a counterargument but the White Sox a) were closer to contending the following year b) have gotten lucky that Rios has produced enough to justify that big contract c) still have a big contract on their hands.
As I said before, I don’t expect the Cubs to actually make any concrete moves towards Figgins (if he becomes available). And they shouldn’t. But the scary part is that I can see it happening.