Zduriencik expects Figgins to remain a Mariner

Lots of reports from reliable journalists today about the Mariners and A’s talking trade, with Chone Figgins going to Oakland for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and likely a pitcher.

FigginsChone.jpgBut Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was very adamant in telling me this afternoon that his plan is for Figgins to remain with the Mariners.

“I’m looking forward to Figgins being our starting third baseman,” Zduriencik said. “He’ll be here tomorrow [for the Mariners’ FanFest]. He’s been agreeable to moving back to third base and that’s our plan, to have Chone be our Opening Day third baseman.”

Things can always change, of course, but that doesn’t sound like a man who thinks that trade is coming down.

Joe Stiglich of the Contra Costa Times first bounced the story out that the A’s were trying to trade for Figgins in this report and Ken Rosenthal of FOX and Buster Olney of ESPN followed up, with Olney saying the Blue Jays might be involved in a three-way deal.

There are reasons the initial report could make sense from a Mariners’ perspective. Kouzmanoff has more power than Figgins and Seattle certainly can use all the pop it can find. But that same thing holds true for the A’s. And Oakland has Coco Crisp in the leadoff role and isn’t normally a team that looks to take on salary.

My assumption is the A’s would want Seattle to take on some of Figgins’ remaining salary, since Kouzmanoff is owed a far-more palatable $4.75 million in a deal he just signed to avoid arbitration.

The Mariners also are operating on a tight payroll situation this season, due in part to several contracts like Figgins’ deal, which still has three years and $26 million remaining. He struggled a lot in his initial foray with Seattle after both he and the team got off to slow starts.

But Figgins also played much better in the closing months, hitting .286 with a .688 OPS in the second half after posting .235 and .608 pre-All-Star numbers. There were reasons Zduriencik coveted Figgins last year and he’s not going to just dump him without reasonable return.

Much of Zduriencik’s offseason talk has been of getting players to bounce back and be what they expected last year and Figgins is at the top of that list. Moving back to third, where he stood out for the Angels, and having a year’s adjustment to hitting second behind Ichiro could help.

So I’d be surprised if the Mariners give up on the investment they made in Figgins at this point unless the right offer comes into play. And that right offer, at this point, clearly hasn’t been made.

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