Chone Figgins: Angels Acquisition #13

Otto Greule Jr

A look at the player voted the 13th-greatest acquisition in Angels history. Most people seem to forget he was an acquisition at all!

Yesterday, with a mostly shocked response, we took a look at the player voted the 14th-greatest Angels acquisition ever, Mark Teixeira.

Today, however, we look at a player with much more justification of being on this list--and it's a player that many fans might casually forget was an acquisition.

During his time as the general manager of the Angels, Bill Stoneman was never too much of a risk-taker. Any moves he made were either minor tinkers, or big moves often inspired by ownership and not himself. One of his minor tinkers, however, proved to be one of the most (favorably so) lopsided trades in Angels history. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 1997, he found himself four years later being flipped by the team that drafted him, to the then-Anaheim Angels, in exchange for journeyman outfielder Kimera Bartee. This was a seemingly-insignificant minor league deal, one that provided the Angels with infield depth in the minor leagues. It turned into one of the most-often overlooked trades in Angels history. The player acquired? Chone Figgins.

CHONE FIGGINS, THIRD BASEMAN/CENTER FIELDER

.291/.363/.388, 1,045 H, 341 RBI, 280 SB, 2005 stolen-bases champion, 20.8 WAR (2.6 average)

In his eight seasons wearing the halo on his uniform, Figgins led all of baseball in stolen bases in 2005, with 62, and led the entire American League in walks in 2009, with 101. He spent full seasons as the Angels' third baseman and as their center fielder, also seeing limited position at every position except catcher, pitcher and first base. Though he averaged 2.6 WAR per season as an Angel, do not be deceived; that number is weighed down by injury-limited seasons in 2007 and 2008, a down season in 2006, and then stretched out on the other end with his career season in 2009, posting a WAR of 7.5. His 162-game average WAR (basically, the average WAR he would've posted playing full seasons every year he wasn't a September call-up) is much higher, at 3.7.

The value Figgins brought to the Angels was difficult to match, and in solely my opinion, the picture in the dictionary if you looked up "super-utility man". In 2002 he saw limited regular-season action, but quickly became a favorite of the fans in the postseason as a lightning-quick pinch-runner. His value wasn't truly realized until his first full season, in 2004, when he batted .296 with a .770 OPS in 148 games, played mostly in a super-utility role, seeing substantial time at second base, third base, shortstop and center field, finishing 24th in AL MVP voting. In 2005 he continued further in his legacy, spelling Dallas McPherson at third base and Steve Finley in center field (two big busts), on his way to his only stolen-bases title, finishing 17th in AL MVP voting. After the underachieving Finley was traded to San Francisco in 2006, Figgins became the regular center fielder, but his offensive numbers dipped and he posted a meager 84 OPS+. Just a down year, though; Figgins returned in 2007 after breaking his thumb to miss the first 45 games of the season, and batted .330 with a career-high 117 OPS+, finishing 20th in AL MVP voting.

After another injury-shortened season in 2008 where he spotted decent numbers, but still a shoddy OPS+ of 83, on came his career season in 2009. No, he didn't approach his .330 average of 2007; he batted .298. No, he didn't approach his 62 stolen bases in 2005; he stole 42 and got caught a league-high 17 times. He did, however, set career highs in runs scored (114), doubles (30), walks (101, leading the AL), on-base percentage (.395), and WAR (7.5, 3rd among position players in the AL). He finished 10th in AL MVP voting, in a season where Kendrys Morales (5th) and Bobby Abreu (12th) also graced the top 15. He, after an injury to Evan Longoria, received his only All-Star nod.

A career year in 2009, however, was unfortunate for Tony the Dolt, who was convinced that Figgins wasn't worth a four-year contract, like he sought. In an offseason where owner Arte Moreno publicly stated the Angels would "have to choose" between keeping Figgins and ace John Lackey, they wound up keeping neither. Lackey unceremoniously blasted the Angels in accepting a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox. That made fans bitter, but it didn't sting, as Jered Weaver was set to enter the ace ranks. What stung was what happened beforehand.

During the 2009 Winter Meetings, Reagins offered Figgins a 3-year, $24 million contract. No fourth year, not even an OPTION for a fourth-year. Along came the Mariners, hoping to contend in 2010 after disappointing 2008 and 2009 seasons, who offered a four-year deal, worth $36 million, that had a 5th-year option attached at $9 million. Figgins jumped on it. Fans were infuriated with Reagins, who didn't display as much confidence in replacement Brandon Wood as they did in Weaver replacing Lackey. Figgins, the fan favorite for many seasons, an underrated offensive catalyst...was gone. Did he chase the money? Maybe. That's conjecture, though. What's certain is he got the contract he wanted.

Even on a team in the same division, a rival, it pained me to see what happened next. Figgins posted one of the worst slash lines in his career, at .259/.340/.306. The Mariners got no better. Figgins went on to post two Mathis-esque seasons thereafter, and was released from his contract last month. I, as a fan, would be one willing to take Figgins on a one-year deal as our Maicer Izturis replacement, and if he proved himself worthy of a starting spot, maybe relegating Alberto Callaspo. I find no risk in giving Figgins another shot on this team. Because with what he was worth to us for many seasons prior, I find it hard to believe that any Angels fan would be bitter about re-signing him.

In voting, Figgins received three sixth-place votes, two seventh-place votes, and four tenth-place votes, for a total of 27 points.

For eight seasons, we as Angels fans got treated to seeing a speedy man, ready for any job at hand, get Figgy with it. Am I alone in being open to a sequel?

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