Image courtesy of SI.com

Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Blue Jays? or Chone Figgins?


ESPN’s Buster Olney sparked a slew of discussion on Twitter just under an hour ago where, after saying a third team could be involved in the rumored Chone Figgins/Kevin Kouzmanoff swap between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, he speculated that the Jays could be that team and be the recipient of Kouzmanoff’s services.

This could also get people thinking about something else:

Could Anthopoulos be trying to trump the Athletics’ offer and grab Chone Figgins himself?

First things first.

Image courtesy of the Boston Herald

Kouzmanoff, 29, has seen his batting average and slugging percentage drop in each of the last four seasons, and he had an atrocious .283 on-base percentage with the A’s last season. He has, however, posted at least 16 HR, 71 RBI, and been worth 2.5 WAR in each of the last four seasons. Most of his value comes from defense, and this line from Fangraphs sums up what advanced defensive metrics think of Kouzmanoff’s defense:

It’s not just UZR that rates his defense highly. Both DRS and TZL both have rated him among the league’s best third basemen during the last two seasons.

Regardless of the advanced statistics, Kouzmanoff can be considered as an above-average defender. He’s durable, having appeared in 141 games in each of the last four seasons, he’s under contract for $4.75M next season, and he has two years left before free agency. Does that mean he’d be a great fit for the Jays? Not so much.

The idea of bringing Chone Figgins to Toronto is intriguing though.

After signing a lucrative 4-year/$36M contract with a vesting option for 2014 with the Seattle Mariners last year, Figgins is coming off the worst season of his career in virtually every category. It was his first season in Seattle, and his first as a full-time second baseman, where he played 161 games.

Even in a down year where he hit .259/.340/.306 at the plate, Figgins managed to go 42-for-57 in stolen base attempts, draw 74 walks, and hit 21 doubles. His defense took a hit when he was experimented with at 2B last season, but he did rank as one of the top 5 defensive third basemen in all of baseball from 2007-2009.

It’s hard to imagine a 33-year-old Figgins not rebounding from his 2010 season in some way next year, especially if he was to move back to the hot corner full-time. He was worth only 0.6 WAR last season, but he was worth 3.2, 2.7, and 6.1 WAR as a third baseman during the 2007-2009 seasons, respectively.

Positionally, if the Jays were to acquire Figgins, it would send Jose Bautista to right field, his preferred position, and likely send newly-acquired Juan Rivera to the bench as a fourth outfielder.

It could even help boost Bautista’s morale and aid in signing him to an extension, something I feel should be done mid-season next year after he has proven he can keep producing offensively after the myriad of adjustments pitchers will make to the way they pitch to him.

An issue with Figgins, obviously, is his contract. He is owed $9 million in 2011 and 2012, $8 million in 2013, and has a vesting $9 million option for 2014 if he logs 600 plate appearances in 2013.

The option is far from concerning, as is the actual amount of money considering the state of the Blue Jays’ payroll right now. In virtually a full season with the Mariners last season (161 games), Figgins managed 702 plate appearances, so surely the Jays could modify his appearances in 2013 to ensure the 2014 option does not vest.

Relieving the Mariners of their headache and high salary, combined with his career-low year, could make the price to acquire Figgins more than manageable. There’s always the scenario where the trade becomes bigger and the Mariners include a prospect (the Jays would likely do so as well, just not as good of one) in the deal because of the Jays taking on salary.

The only concern with acquiring Figgins would be his spot on the Jays’ roster for the next three years. Having Figgins as the Jays’ third baseman for 2011 would definitely not be a problem, even if Brett Lawrie comes knocking at the door late in the season.

Figgins’ status could get messy in 2012 and 2013, especially if  Brett Lawrie is the Opening Day third baseman. If that’s case, Figgins could possibly move to 2B if the Jays decide to ship Aaron Hill out of town next season, or avoid bringing Hill back entirely.

Even if Figgins only played for the Jays in 2011 (assuming both Lawrie and Hill or even Hech are all on the 2012 roster), it would allow Figgins to re-establish his value as a third baseman and offensive player, and the Jays could ship him out via the trade route next year for something to help an area of need that would become clearer after the 2011 developmental season concludes in October.

Food for thought.

-JM

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Tags: Aaron Hill Alex Anthopoulos Chone Figgins Jose Bautista Juan Rivera Kevin Kouzmanoff Oakland Athletics Seattle Mariners Toronto Blue Jays

  • KyleZ

    All these reports of the Blue Jays picking up the big contracts of these old expensive players like Micheal Young or Chone Figgins is stupid. It’s as if people haven’t been paying attention since AA took over. These are exactly the kind of moves that don’t happen

    • little dan

      agreed

      • http://www.jayjournal.com Jared Macdonald

        It was just pure speculation by Olney and hardly a source, and this article was just elaborating on that speculation, just stirring the pot like bantertuck said below.

  • Joe

    Buster adds up 1+1+1+1 and comes up with a total mess. Maybe he should stop straining his brain so much.

  • Mat Germain

    I have no idea if there’s a foundation of truth here or not, but I will chime in with some thoughts. First, we know that the Mariners and Jays are open to 3-way deals together since they were both involved in the Doc deal. Second, we know that they may be on the lookout for a 3B but are keeping it hush-hush in order to keep any ongoing deal rolling without “fan uproar” on any side of the deal. Finally, I don’t know about you guys, but if Juan Rivera goes into 2011 as a starter, I may skip the season, hibernate, and wake up when it’s 2012. So, the Jays better have Lawrie or another option on the field that allows them to make Rivera what he should be, a 4th outfielder.

    Either way, I’ll believe it when I see it! Who knows what could happen? The Jays could be sending a pitcher to Oakland since they’re 5th start spot is wide open, the Jays could be landing Michael Saunders instead of Figgins or Kouzmanoff, ect.. ect.. Under AA, the silent assassin, we won’t know for certain until it’s all said and done.

    I’m a bigger fan of Brett Lawrie at 3B or in LF either way, so as long as any acquisition doesn’t block that from happening, it’s all good with me.

  • Theo_Adorno

    I like Kevin Kouzmanoff for his defense and the $ – His contract makes Lawrie’s path to the bigs much easier. Seeing his numbers drop every year since MLB got serious about testing for performing enhancing drugs is not a good sign – very limited bat

    Figgins has nice speed and could possibly have a rebound year. Not worried about the 600 ab in 2013 (I assume Lawrie is playing there everyday but a 9 million dollar bench player?

    Regardless, the jays need to get a third baseman

  • Jack

    Rivera cannot be a 4th outfielder since then we’d have noone to cover for David when he needs rest or if he got hurt. Rivera, Snider, and Bautista are not capable of playing center field!

    • Jack

      meant Davis

      • Mat Germain

        That’s why we think Mastroianni makes sense on the bench in the 4th spot, and it’s also the reason it makes signing Vladdy hard to do. However, if Davis is on the DL, the Jays can call up anyone to take his spot, so even in AA or AAA, Mastroianni is still “backing up” Davis in center.

    • AG

      Bautista can play CF in a pinch. Mastro or Patterson can be called up at any time.

  • bankertuck

    Olney is just “spit-balling” to see what sticks. Real stories are getting a little scarce so lets stir the pot. NO WAY this is factual.