Mariners make waves: Figgins in, Lee next
SEATTLE (AP) – Chone Figgins pulled on his new Seattle Mariners jersey and immediately started speculating about another big move – acquiring ace left-hander Cliff Lee.
“It would be nice. It wouldn’t hurt, I’ll tell you that,” Figgins said with a grin.
And it could become a reality soon.
The Mariners welcomed the speedy Figgins on Tuesday as they worked on their part of a four-team trade that is expected to net them another ace to pair with Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation.
Seattle is set to send minor league pitchers Phillippe Aumont, its top pick in 2007, and Juan Ramirez along with Class-A outfielder Tyson Gillies to the Phillies for Lee. The deal is expected to be finalized Wednesday – the same day Philadelphia is expected to complete the acquisition of ace Roy Halladay from Toronto.
Details of the nine players involved in the swap of Cy Young Award winners, first reported by ESPN.com and prospectinsider.com, were confirmed by several baseball officials familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade was not yet final. Teams were still reviewing medical records and going through the final details.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik refused to comment specifically on the arrival of Lee, who won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland and had both of Philadelphia’s wins in this year’s World Series.
The trade does not include a contract extension for the 31-year-old pitcher, who has a $9 million salary for 2010 and then can become a free agent.
Zduriencik did say he’s not done adding to a team that last season become the 13th since 1901 to finish with a winning record the year after losing 100 games.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions going on, a lot of balls we’ve been juggling … we’ll see what else (happens),” he said. “Any other thing that’s in the works or we’re having discussions about will be for another time.”
Tuesday was for Figgins, who left AL West-rival Los Angeles for a $36 million, four-year contract with the Mariners. The deal also includes a vesting option for 2014 that could make it worth $45 million over five years.
The 31-year-old Figgins is coming off one of his best seasons, leading the American League with 101 walks and posting a career-high on-base percentage of .395. The All-Star infielder batted .298 with five homers and 54 RBIs as Los Angeles won its third consecutive division title.
He is a career .291 hitter who has averaged 48 stolen bases during his eight seasons in the major leagues, all with the Angels.
Figgins flew to Seattle from his native Florida with his parents, Charlie Figgins and Eva Callins, and broke down when he talked about their influence on his life.
“Excuse me for the tears – it’s special,” the switch hitter said. “They’ve been there with me through everything. … They’ve been in the South for so many years, been through the hardest times they could have ever been through. I think people deserve to see what’s behind me.”
Figgins likely will bat second behind All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, giving the Mariners a dynamic top of the order.
Zduriencik said he still doesn’t know whether Figgins will play third base or second. He also played shortstop and left field last season.
“We’ve added an All-Star player. We already have Felix in the fold. We have Ichiro in the fold. That’s pretty nice,” Zduriencik said. “It sends a great signal. I’ve said it from Day One: This is a great story to tell here in Seattle.
“We’re trying to set something in place here that’s going to make this city and our fan base very, very proud.”
Seattle is still discussing re-signing free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. The two-time Gold Glover recently declined an offer of salary arbitration.
If Figgins doesn’t replace Beltre, he could move second baseman Jose Lopez to first – or the trade market if the Mariners bring back free-agent first baseman Russell Branyan.
Branyan, who had a team-best 31 homers this year and turns 34 Saturday, wants a multiyear contract. The Mariners are hesitant because Branyan missed the final month of the season with a herniated disk in his back.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum in New York and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.