If defense wins championships, the Mariners may be well on their way to glory.
Seattle is nearing a deal with Angels free-agent third baseman Chone Figgins, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports. If completed, the contract is expected to be in the neighborhood of four years and $36 million.
However, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports via Twitter that the Mariners are offering only $32 million over four years or $27 million for three. Heyman also cautions against ruling out the Angels, who reportedly have a three-year, $24 million offer on the table for Figgins to return, but believes the Mariners will eventually settle with Figgins on a four-year deal worth about $35 million.
Signing Figgins would be the latest in a string of moves by Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik that seem to be geared toward making them the best fielding team in the league.
Last offseason, Seattle acquired center fielder Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians. At the trade deadline, Zduriencik brought in shortstop Jack Wilson from the Pirates. Those two are widely heralded as the best defenders in baseball at their respective positions, and the Mariners ranked atop the American League in defensive efficiency last season, according to Baseball Prospectus.
The 31-year-old Figgins was an elite defender at the hot corner for the Angels in 2009, perhaps even better than his potential predecessor in Seattle, two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre. Figgins would be a perfect fit in the Emerald City in that regard.
Additionally, Figgins brings superior on-base skills and excellent speed to a Mariners lineup that is becoming increasingly diverse. Ichiro Suzuki is a staple atop Don Wakamatsu?s batting order, but Figgins would be a terrific complement to him, even though he lacks the power Seattle needs. A 1-2 punch of Ichiro and Figgins — who had a .395 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases last season — could be the envy of the league.
The Mariners may now turn their attention to outfielder Jason Bay, a Seattle resident who would provide the pop they seek. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported on Thursday that Zduriencik will make ?a concerted push? to sign Bay away from Boston.