Chone Figgins will serve as Mariners third baseman, leadoff hitter

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UPDATE: Eric Wedge confirmed the news today, stating that the Mariners would move Ichiro into the third spot in the order and try Figgins at leadoff. Check back later for the Mariners edition of “Running down the rosters” for a guess at the full lineup.

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And why shouldn’t he be? He hit .188 last year.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times believes the Mariners will soon name Figgins their leadoff man, with Ichiro Suzuki moving down in the order. The Ichiro move is something that’s been hinted at all winter, and FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal recently indicated that Figgins was the likely replacement.

Figgins’ position in the field won’t be quite as set, but he’s not so concerned about that, as long as he’s penciled in regularly.

“Like I told them ‘I’m going to be ready for wherever you play me in the lineup, as long as you play me every day’,” he told the Times. “That’s something I care about.”

It’s hard to believe Figgins has the gumption to make such a statement, as terrible as he’s been in his two years with the Mariners. He went from hitting .298/.395/.394 in his final year with the Angels to .259/.340/.306 in 2010 and .188/.241/.243 last year. By any measure, he rated as one of baseball’s worst players last season, and he collected $9 million in the process. The Mariners owe him another $17 million over the next two years.

Obviously, the Mariners’ decision to restore him to everyday status is financially motivated. In a fair world, Kyle Seager would have every chance to beat him out for the third-base job this spring. At 34, Figgins isn’t necessarily too old to bounce back. But at this point, he should have to earn his spot, not have it handed to him along with his millions.

That doesn’t seem to be the plan at the moment, though. Figgins will see some time in the outfield this spring, but third base is where he’s expected to play most of the time. Seager may well be Triple-A bound unless he forces the Mariners to carry him as a part-timer with a big month of March.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.