While Chone Figgins Heads North, Angels’ Future Goes South


The thrill is gone. At least in Anaheim.

Chone Figgins, the spark plug for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has left sunny Southern California behind in favor of the soggy skies of Seattle.

Well, that, and a four-year contract reportedly worth $36 million.

Shocking as it may be to some—and it certainly is to me—Figgins has traded in his halo for the drab blue/green garb of the Seattle Mariners, a divisional rival of the Angels and one that looks to improve dramatically next season.

According to Mariners officials, the deal will not be finalized until Monday, but for all intents and purposes, the lightning bug that sparked the Angels’ offense has jumped ship to sport a sailor’s moniker.

Ironic, no?

Figgins’ departure is unfortunate for a number of reasons.

First, and perhaps most obvious, the Angels will now have to attempt what so many teams failed to do over the last eight years: contain the little spitfire!

Figgins has proven himself to be one of the most dangerous leadoff men in all of baseball and in 2009, he only got better.

With age—Figgins is 31—has come a further understanding of the delicate art of setting the table.

Apart from a .298 batting average, the second highest of his career, Figgy finally learned to be patient at the plate, resulting in a team-high 101 walks.

He also lead the Angels, and finished third in the league, in stolen bases with 42.

Guys like Kendry Morales, Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter had tremendous seasons offensively. But make no mistake, each was heavily influenced by the presence of Figgins in the lineup.

Merry Christmas, Ichiro.

Not mention, his sparkling defensive abilities and cannon throwing arm make Figgins as lethal in the field as he is at the plate.

However, facing their former friend is by far the least of the Angels’ worries now. With their sterling third baseman and sparkling leadoff hitter gone, who will they get to replace him?

Brandon Wood figures to be the frontrunner for the job at the moment, but I’d sooner root for Figgy in Seattle than stand to see Wood in Anaheim on Opening Day.

The magic of his improved defense and power in the minors has proven to be nothing but smoke and mirrors in the pros.

Wood is a minor league star and a Major League bust.

His offensive prowess at Triple-A has never and will never translate to the bigs; the difference in pitching talent is simply too great and he does not have the discipline or the swing to compete.

Sadly, this is not a popular opinion among big league squads, most notably the Angels.

Wood’s particular brand of offensive charm has endeared him to the brass in Anaheim, who seem dead set on making Wood a starter, as evidenced by their attitude toward re-signing Figgins.

If General Manager Tony Reagins really wanted him, he could have had him.

Figgins, like most of the Angels’ free agents, expressed a clear desire to return to Anaheim, where his style of play fits perfectly with Manager Mike Scioscia’s aggressive run-and-gun nature.

But no. We have Brandon Wood, the second coming of Dallas McPherson with twice as many strikeouts.

Truly, we are blessed.

Now, that’s not to say Wood is entirely useless or that he’ll never pan out. Many take a much more compassionate approach and feel that he just needs consistent at-bats in the Majors before he comes into his own.

But sometimes compassion can get you killed. Especially in sports.

Wood has a penchant for striking out, and that sorry trait will only be made worse with the added pressure of replacing Figgins as the starter.

Expect Rory Markus and Mark Gubicza to use the word “pressing”…a lot.

If this team wants to have any chance of competing in its own division, nevermind the American League, the first thing it has to do at the upcoming Winter Meetings is find a new third baseman.

The Angels could solve their third base problem in-house, of course, but they seem content using Maicer Izturis off the bench as a middle infielder.

Mark DeRosa, then, could be a viable replacement at the hot corner.

DeRosa has hit well and defended better with every team he’s been on. Like Figgy, he’s got the ability to play multiple positions, and unlike Wood, he’s shown consistent power throughout his career.

If the choice is a swing-happy prospect who couldn’t hit a Major League pitch if you paid him—and they do—or a solid veteran with some pop and previous experience in the AL West, I’ll take the veteran any day.

Wood’s value, now more than ever, lies in his worth as a trade piece.

The Angels’ are not the only minds Wood has fooled. Indeed, teams across both leagues are enamored with the deceptively powerful righty and often include his name in trade talks.

With any luck, the Angels will wise up and deal Wood now, while he’s still young (25 at the start of next season) and brimming with “potential.”

Losing Figgins was a terrible mistake, but relying on Wood to take his place would be worse.

The only potential the slender farmhand has is to help fill holes on the Angels’ roster.