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Mariners Make Solid Deal for Chone Figgins

Assuming that Figgins passes his physical today, the Seattle Mariners will announce a four-year, $36M contract with the veteran third baseman, according to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. Figgins, who turns 32 in January, is likely to replace Adrian Beltre as the team's everyday third baseman next season.

Figgins is regarded as one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, and he's quietly emerged as one of the better defensive third baseman in the game. He's improved his walk rate in every season since breaking onto the scene with the Angels in 2002, peaking at 14.1% this season. He offers practically no power, but he's a good contact hitter with excellent plate discipline, and he's posted OBP's of .393, .367 and .395 in the past three respecitve seasons.

In addition, Figgins is one of the better baserunners in the game as well. He's stolen 34+ bases in every season since 2003, and while his 74% stealing percentage isn't great, he's also very good at the other nuances of baserunning, he was worth about 0.8 WAR solely on the basepaths in 2009, a very impressive mark. When you factor in his solid contact ability, impressive (and increasing) walk rates, and value on the basepaths, it's clear that he's one of the more productive top of the order hitters in the game.

While it would be tough to justify giving $9M per season to a hitter of Figgins' caliber, it's much easier when factoring in his defense. He's a solidly above-average defender at third base that's capable of playing second base and the outfield, and in over 4500 innings at third base he has a career UZR/150 of +8.0, and he posted a +16.3 UZR in 2009.

Considering that Figgins should be good for a wOBA around the .340-.360 range as well as a solidly above average UZR (+4 to +8, approximately), you could reasonably expect Figgins to be a 3-4 WAR player over the next couple of years. Considering how valuable that kind of player is, and the fact that a similarly valuable player, Jason Bay, will likely command 4+ years at $12M+ per season, it seems that the Mariners got pretty solid value for one of the best players on the open market.

The Mariners have locked up one of the best top of the orders in the game with Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki, and landing a good leadoff hitter and a plus defensive third baseman for $9M per year looks pretty good for Seattle right now. Figgins is likely to decline over the duration of the contract, his skill set is one that generally deteriorates quickly with aging, but he should still be an above-average regular for at least the first two years of the deal, and a solid contributor afterwards.

Considering what Bay is likely to get, and the numbers bandied about by some writers (5/50 or so), landing Figgins for $36M seems like a solid first big-name free agent signing for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik.