OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 02: Chone Figgins #9 of the Seattle Mariners looks on prior to his game against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 2, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Chone Figgins has been a complete bust in a Mariners uniform. But is he the costliest bust ever?
On May 28thChone Figgins justified his name on the batting line-up by ripping a double. It was his first hit in all of May. Granted, up until that point, Figgins had only been to the plate 24 times in the whole month. May 28th was Figgins' 10th game that month. Figgins is making $9 million dollars this year.
There is no real arguing against how absolutely bad Figgins has been as a Mariner. Somehow, even using a blatant absolute like absolutely doesn't do justice to how bad he has been. But the question is how terrible he has been in the grand scheme of things. The Mariners, like all teams in all sports, have made some terrible signings. So is Chone Figgins really the worst Mariner signing of all time? Or is that just a slight exaggeration. Lets take a look at the past decade or so.
Scott Spiezio - 3 yr, $9 million: Much like Figgins, Scott Spiezio was poached from the Anaheim Angels after a pretty decent 2003 season where he hit .265/.326/.453. His glove wasn't exactly stellar, but Spiezio was a solid hitting infielder that could hopefully provide a bit of the oomph in the tail end of the batting order. But in standard Mariners free agent signing mode, 2004 was Spiezio's worst hitting year of his career. He struggled to climb above the Mendoza Line at .215 over 112 games. In 2005, Spiezio's comeback was cut short - literally. After only playing 29 games, the Mariners cut Spiezio and his miniscule .064 average in mid-August.
Painmeter: 6. The Mariners were just a chapter in Spiezio's unfortunate fall from grace from baseball. This was $9 million the Mariners never saw again, but at least he played for one year - so in the end, the Mariners only completely lost out on about $6 million dollars.
Richie Sexson - 4 yr, $50 million: Richie Sexson became the punching bag for the consistent failures of the Bavasi regime. After repeatedly mauling the ball in 2003, the Mariners signed Sexson as the big home run hitting free agent. In 2005 and 2006, Sexson did exactly what he was hired to do. The strikeouts were plentiful, but so were the home runs. It wasn't until 2007 that things started to turn south when Sexson hit .205/.295/.399 with 21 home runs. He ended up the worst defensive first basemen in all of MLB as well. After 74 games in 2008, the Mariners sent Sexson and his $15 million contract packing.
Painmeter: 8. Sexson provided some solid value on his first two years, posting a 3.5 and 2.3 WAR in the first two years of his contract. But in 2007 his WAR was -1.4, and he was cut at a -0.1 in 2008. And he was making $15 million at that time. No way to sugarcoat how much that hurt the Mariners.
Carl Everett - 1 yr, $3 million: After Edgar Martinez retired, the Mariners should have petitioned to move to the National League to avoid what would become an ongoing DH conundrum. Carl Everett was the first of many strikeouts the team has made since Edgar went onto the Hall of Fame campaigning trail. Outside of not believing in the existence of dinosaurs, being an outspoken homophobe, and questioning the lunar landing, Everett was also a terrible hitter. Everett's tour of insanity in Seattle lasted 92 games, at which point the Mariners jettisoned him and his .227 average back to the Jurassic Era. At the time of his release, Everett's was 85th out of 86th AL players in batting average with enough at-bats.
Painmeter: 1. Signing Everett in the first place was a desperation move, and the short tenure of the troubled player emphasized that. But Everett's contract was also one that, because it was only a one-year signing, limited the long-term damage it would do to the Mariners' pocket books.
Kenji Johjima - 3 yr, $24 million: Kenji Johjima's contract extension in 2008 was one of the most baffling moves ever made in Mariners history, considering Johjima was 31 at the time of signing the extension and hitting right at the Mendoza Line. It was generally assumed that the Nintendo ownership of the Mariners had forced Bavasi's hand on Johjima, and Johjima rewarded leadership by having an abysmal 2008 season. Johjima hit .227/.277/.332 and drew complaints from various pitchers he caught. Fans clamored for the call-up of Jeff Clement, and in 2009, Johjima graciously walked away from his contract and returned back to Japan. The Mariners owed him no more money, and because of that, Johjima will never be thought of as one of the worst signings in Mariners history (although the extension still is terrible).
Painmeter: 2. Johjima's bad contract wasn't the one that was signed after the posting fee; he actually did quite well when he first arrived. But the extension was downright baffling, and somehow even more baffling is that Johjima completely walked away from it. The details were never posted, but general consensus is that the Mariners were allowed to keep most of their ill-advised monies, so in the end that lessened the terribleness of the deal.
Carlos Silva - 4 yr, $44 - 48 million: As if Johjima's contract extension was baffling, the signing of Carlos Silva to top line money made even less sense. While he was with Minnesota, Silva had proven to be a semi-solid innings eater - but that was about it. In 2006 he had the worst home-run average in all of the majors, and his pitching numbers were never anything to scream about. So why Bavasi decided to pay Silva like he was a front of the order guy is beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Especially considering that in 2008 he went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA. At the time, he was only making $8.25 million. In 2009, Silva went 1-3 with an 8.60 ERA before sitting out the rest of the year with mysterious shoulder injuries. That year, he made $12 million dollars. In 2010, Silva was shipped to the Cubs along with $9 million dollars for Milton Bradley, who would end up being paid $24 million over two years by the Mariners to be absolutely terrible, temperamental, all-around Milton Bradley like, and cut in 2011.
Painmeter: 10. The Carlos Silva signing probably takes the cake in bad free agent signings for a number of reasons. First off, Carlos Silva wasn't worth the money he was paid from the beginning - at all. It isn't like he had a good year and trailed off ala Richie Sexson. Instead he made a bunch of money and sucked hard from the start. Then, to make matters worse, after Silva had turned himself into a blimp the Mariners couldn't blow up even if they wanted to, he was shipped bad contract for bad contract for Milton Bradley. That trade is still justifiable as it ended up being a very expensive dead weight for another very expensive dead weight. The Mariners basically ate close to $50 million on worthless baseball players.
At this point in his Mariners career, it is probably safe to close the book on the Chone Figgins experiment. How long he stays with the team is really anyone's guess, but unless a string of horrible luck and injuries destroys the core of this team, Figgins will spend much of the rest of the season riding the bench. While making a cool $9 million this year, that is an expensive person to have hanging out there, and with one more year still left on the contract it would be a huge surprise to see Figgins jersey's not on the clearance rack for the start of the 2013 season. Whether or not his contract ends up in the lore of Mariners history books as the worst remains to be seen, as there is still the chance (albeit incredibly small) that Figgins is flipped for a player of actual value. In that case, he would lose out to the Silva/Bradley debacle of yesteryear, which by sheer staggering amount of money is probably the winner for worst Mariners' free-agent signing in history.