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Figgins might be going to the Mariners, but what does it mean?

With the latest rumor that Chone Figgins is close to signing a 4/$36M deal with the Mariners, I’m left wondering how in the world the Twins aren’t able to top that deal.

Figgins is the top infielder on the free agent market, and very well should have had his pick of suitors this winter — and given his value over the past few years and his stellar glove and his high OBP, the offers should have been pretty big.

I don’t know if the Twins offered him a contract, or talked to his agents, or even showed any interest in upgrading from a Tolbert/Harris platoon at 3B. I really, really hope so, but the Twins are being as secretive as ever* and we simply have no idea.

* That works great if you’re Apple or Google or something, and are constantly doing awesome stuff and springing it on people when they had no idea it was coming, and you keep on doing it over and over again. But when the secrets end up being “we signed Nick Punto to a multi-year deal” or a shit sandwich like “we traded our top pitcher and our starting shortstop for the worst player in the league,” or “we think the team that wasn’t quite good enough last year is good enough next year,” well, it doesn’t work quite as well.

But it’s at least possible that the Twins engaged Figgins; I’d like to hope that they offered him more than 4/$36M — he’s been worth more than $9M in every season he’s been a starter except for 2006, and his skillset figures to degrade slowly over time. I’d say it’s a good bet that he’ll be worth more than $36M over the course of the next four years. Like I said … I hope the Twins offered more than that.

But maybe it wasn’t good enough. People always talk about how “money isn’t always the biggest thing” for some players; that there are other things they take into account, and that the biggest offer doesn’t always get the player. At the same time, though, doesn’t it seem like players always sign for the largest dollar amount? Last winter, Teixeira was considering the Nationals and (moreso) the Orioles because he’s from the area, and they offered him a staggeringly large deal. The Red Sox offered a contract in the same ballpark, and he’d love to play for the Red Sox because he loves their history and their city and he wants to win. And then the Yankees came in, just about Boston’s offer, and it turns out that Teixeira’s dream has always been to wear pinstripes, so in the end he got exactly what he wanted … but he also got the biggest contract that anyone offered him. Is it all bullshit? Maybe. I don’t know.

Today, though, we learn that sometimes players do turn down the biggest offer to go somewhere they like more. In this case, the A’s offered the largest contract to Marco Scutaro, but he opted for the Red Sox instead because he “preferred the chance to win a World Series with the Red Sox.”* So sometimes, money isn’t everything.

* If someone had said that six years ago, what would you have said?

Realistically, of course, Figgins can’t think he has a better shot at a title with the Mariners than he would with the Twins. The Twins are very close to being built to win now, and as a playing situation, slotting into the 2 spot in the order between Span and Mauer can hardly be beat.

Maybe those things aren’t what’s important to Figgins. Maybe he wants to stay on the west coast rather than coming to the midwest. Maybe he doesn’t like the prospect of being the 6th or 7th best player on the team and would rather be the 1st or 2nd best — I think it’s believable that a guy would rather be the biggest fish. Maybe his postseason struggles, and the attention they’ve gotten, have effected him and he’d rather be in a situation where they don’t come up.

At the end of the day, we don’t know. It’s possible that Figgins would have loved to play for the Twins, but they just didn’t call, or they wouldn’t offer enough money, or years. Maybe the Twins do actually believe in Danny Valencia (despite some evidence to the contrary), and don’t want to block him with an expensive signing.

But at the same time, I’m torn. Is it promising that players might actually be considering more than money when it comes to signing long term contracts — thus lending hope to the idea of a Mauer extension? Is it a bad sign that free agents might choose to avoid the Twins, for intangible reasons? Is it a bad sign that the Twins won’t offer enough money to get key free agents, possibly sending a message to Mauer that they’re not dedicated to building a great team around him? Is it a good sign that perhaps they’re saving their money for Mauer’s contract, and don’t want to lock up money they may not have before they know about how much he’ll cost?

The only thing I’m sure about is that it’s a bad sign that I’m worrying so much.

What do you think?

4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. JK December 5th, 2009 10:12 am

    Scutaro and Figgins were both type A free agents who were offered arbitration. A late first round pick has an average surplus value of $5.2M. Even with a boost in payroll the Twins will need talented pre-arb players to compete so I can see why they weren’t in on Figgins. If they don’t add one of Lopez, Hudson, Beltre, or DeRosa I’ll be disappointed.

  2. sirsean December 5th, 2009 10:19 am

    I didn’t mention that we’d have to give up a draft pick, and I probably should have.

    On the one hand, I think giving up a pick is worthwhile if you’re signing a top free agent — especially to a relatively low-dollar deal like Figgins got.

    On the other hand, I think the Twins are pretty adamant about not giving up their first round pick; it’s possible that they simply refused to consider Figgins because it would have cost them that draft pick.

    I suppose I don’t have a big problem with that as long as they continue to go above slot in the first round, like they did with Kyle Gibson.

    And ultimately, I completely agree: they need to sign at least one of Lopez, Hudson, or Beltre. (Preferably two, and I think they should avoid DeRosa. He’s not as good as everyone thinks, and I fear his salary will be inflated by his “versatility,” otherwise known as “crappiness at multiple positions.”)

  3. Heineken-77 December 5th, 2009 12:34 pm

    I forgot where I read it, but they said that the Twins brass have a feeling that Danny Valencia is our 3rd baseman of the future. He has done very well at every level of the farm system and looks to be a solid 3rd baseman. They believe he can be able to hit around .290 with about 15-20 hrs, while playing above average defense. The Twins believe in building through the farm system and shouldn’t give up on him by signing figgins for 3-4 years. They more-so need a 2nd baseman, unless they feel casilla is the answer. I think they will look to sign someone for 1-2 years, and probably a 3rd year option, either 3rd or 2nd.

  4. sirsean December 5th, 2009 12:41 pm

    Everything I’ve heard says the Twins believe in Valencia as the future at third; but it seems to me that if they believed he would be ready in 2010, they’d have called him up in September in 2009. I feel like that’s a significant message.

    ALso, I don’t know if Valencia’s ceiling is as high as what Figgins is right now. Instead of telling Mauer “Look, we’re trying to build a great team around you!” the Twins are saying “Hey, Valencia may or may not be good in 2-3 years … we’re playing for tomorrow. Business as usual!”

    While I don’t have a problem with that fundamentally (in fact, as a general rule I’m in favor of it), lately I’ve been of the opinion that the Mauer situation changes things. (As does the “we have a new stadium, we should have more money to spend” situation.)

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