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Oakland Athletics, Mariners Reportedly Discussing Chone Figgins Trade

Rumors are officially swirling that the Oakland Athletics have been in talks with the Seattle Mariners to potentially acquire third baseman/utility man Chone Figgins. The deal would likely involve the A’s sending Kevin Kouzmanoff and a pitcher out and getting Figgins back. Buster Olney added to the rumors by mentioning the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays joining in to make this a three-team deal. Olney is reporting a possible deal that could send Kouzmanoff to Toronto, where Jose Bautista would then move into the outfield.

Although there are a variety of possible sticking points on this kind of deal, the salaries involved has to be the prominent issue. Prior to the 2010 season, Figgins signed a four year contract with the Mariners worth $36 million. He followed that with his worst season as a professional with a line of .259/.340/.306. Throw in the fact that he was fairly abysmal as a second baseman and it was a poor year for Figgins. He actually finished 17th out of 18 eligible second basemen in UZR. On the other side, A’s third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff had his own worst full season as a professional with a line of .247/.283/.396. Of course he countered that with a strong season at third base where finished second among all 3B in UZR. Additionally he remains in his arbitration years through 2012 and agreed to a $4.75 million contract for this season.

The folks at FanGraphs took a look at the possible deal and had some questions about it:

Kouzmanoff figures to be the better value in 2011 and 2012, while Figgins has a fairly hefty contract and is coming off one of his worst seasons in the majors. If cash changes hands perhaps the A’s can make it worthwhile. But in a one-for-one swap, and especially in a scenario where the A’s send an additional player to Seattle, they’d do better to keep Kouzmanoff at third. His numbers might not be the sexiest, but he remains a useful player, especially at his salary.

Figgins has been very solid when placed at third base in the past so even if he’s a defensive downgrade it’s not by much. However, given the salaries, the question is then twofold: 1) How much of his salary would the Mariners cover and 2) would his offensive production would be a sufficient upgrade from Kouzmanoff?

The first question we can’t answer at this point. The second question leaves a ton of question marks. Figgins has generally retained his stolen base abilities over the years and that is a clear cut upgrade over Kouz (42 to 2 in steals last year). In looking at Chone’s hitting numbers we certainly have to factor in Safeco Field as a pitcher’s park. Of course, the Oakland Coliseum is also a pitcher’s park so how much change could we expect? Figgins had a down year but given that he’s now 33, can A’s fans expect a bounce-back year at this point? Maybe they can, but I continue to think they can expect a bounce-back year from Kouzmanoff. While Kouz has never been a monster hitter, if he could get his OBP back above .300 and his slugging above .400, he seems like the better bargain.

The team has worked to build up speed and defense. Overall Figgins would provide an upgrade given his base-stealing skills. However, is his hitting really going to be that much better? If the Athletics made a deal for Figgins and had a sizable chunk of his salary covered I could probably live with the trade. However, as Nico says over at Athletics Nation, I’d lean towards sticking with Kevin Kouzmanoff.