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.

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.


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