Tag: Chone Figgins

Yasiel Puig

2014 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Big Question: Can the deep-pocketed Dodgers be stopped?

After a midseason turnaround led to 92 wins and a trip to the NLCS last year, the Dodgers had a relatively quiet offseason, at least in terms of bringing in outside talent. Sure, they locked up 2013 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw with a monster seven-year, $215 million extension to and re-signed Juan Uribe for two years and $15 million, but their two biggest additions were right-hander Dan Haren (one year, $10 million) and Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero (four years, $28 million). While they recently signed another Cuban infielder, Erisbel Arruebarrena, to a five-year, $25 million contract, he’s not expected to contribute in the majors right away. The truth is that they didn’t need to do much in the way of tweaking, because they were already in pretty good shape.

We heard rumors over the winter about the Dodgers potentially trading one of their outfielders, but they ended up hanging on to all of them. Given the injury histories of Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, that’s probably for the best. The lineup has some potential weak spots between second base, third base, and catcher, but there are plenty of impact bats here. Hanley Ramirez was one of the best hitters in the game when healthy last year and Yasiel Puig was an absolute dynamo after his call-up. Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t surpassed 30 home runs since 2011, but he’s still a solid run producer.

Even though the Dodgers were unable to land Masahiro Tanaka, the rotation is looking potent once again with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu leading the way. Kenley Jansen has emerged as one of the best closers in the majors and bridge to the ninth inning should be stronger this year with full seasons from both Brian Wilson and Paco Rodriguez. Chris Withrow and J.P. Howell will be back in the bullpen and Chris Perez and Jamey Wright were both added to the fold over the winter. Oh, and Brandon League is still collecting a paycheck.

With a payroll well above $200 million, anything short of the World Series will likely be considered a disappointment. Who knows if the Dodgers can get there, as the playoffs are often a crapshoot, but all signs point to them being a forced to be reckoned with once again.

What else is going on?  

  • Matt Kemp is a big question mark as he makes his way back from ankle surgery. He was recently cleared to increase some baseball activities after an MRI showed proper healing, but he’s not expected to be ready for the start of the season and might not even make an appearance during Cactus League play. With Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier in place, the Dodgers don’t have to rush things. Still, a healthy and productive Kemp would make them even scarier.
  • The Dodgers would love for Alexander Guerrero to run away with the starting second base job, but he’s had some issues adjusting to the position and there’s some chatter that he could begin the season in the minors in order to get comfortable. However, if he keeps doing things like this, it’ll be tough to send him down. The possible alternatives at second base include Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, and Brendan Harris, which makes the decision to let Mark Ellis walk a little questionable. The Dodgers certainly could have afforded him, even in an insurance role. He’s essentially doing the same thing for the Cardinals right now.
  • Josh Beckett was limited to just eight starts last year prior to undergoing surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, a procedure which involved having a rib removed to relieve pressure on a nerve which caused numbness in his arms and fingers. The good news is that he hasn’t had any issues this spring and projects to begin the season as the team’s No. 5 starter. The Dodgers have alternatives if things go wrong, as Paul Maholm was added over the winter for depth purposes and Chad Billingsley could be ready to return from Tommy John before the All-Star break.
  • What does Yasiel Puig have in store for an encore? With his all-out style and flair, the 23-year-old outfielder was the talk of baseball as a rookie last year, hitting .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs, 42 RBI, and 11 stolen bases in 104 games. The Dodgers (and some opponents) would like to see him dial things back somewhat, but you take the good with the bat with this type of talent. Unfortunately, his style of play does put him at a greater risk for injury, which is something to watch this season.
  • Much was made of Don Mattingly’s job status last season and in the aftermath of their loss in the NLCS, but the situation should be less of a distraction now that he has received a contract extension through 2016. Of course, that could always change if the Dodgers flop.

Prediction: I could see the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Padres all competing for a Wild Card spot this season, but the Dodgers are the most well-rounded team here and they have the resources to upgrade as the season moves along. They deserve to be considered heavy favorites to win the division for a second straight year. No surprises here. First place, NL West.

Chone Figgins didn’t like being pinch-hit for in Seattle

Chone Figgins

Chone Figgins is trying to make the Dodgers’ roster. He gave a big interview to the L.A. Times about his dark time in Seattle. He mentioned one incident which set the whole relationship on a bad path, apparently:

He said the Mariners had competed well that season against the Angels and he thought Seattle would be good for him.

It wasn’t.

“It kind of says it all,” he said, “when you have just signed a $38-million contract [four years] and they pinch-hit for you in the fourth game.”

I presume he was talking about this game, which was actually the sixth game of his first season with the Mariners. The guy who pinch-hit for him: Ken Griffey, Jr. The pitcher was a righty. Griffey got a hit and and the go-ahead and game-winning RBI. At that point in the season Figgins was 4-for-29 and he had committed an error that game.

Granted, Ken Griffey Jr. was a shell of himself in 2010 so it’s not like a giant, scary stud was taking Figgins’ place. But you gotta be pretty damn full of yourself to say that being pinch-hit for by Ken Griffey Jr. on the Seattle Mariners — with the pinch-hitting appearance resulting in a game-winning RBI — is some sort of an affront.

Chone Figgins, Dodgers close on minor league deal

Chone Figgins

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Dodgers and utilityman Chone Figgins are close to signing a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. [Update: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that an agreement has been reached.] Figgins didn’t play in 2013 after three difficult years with the Mariners. He had inked a four-year, $36 million deal following the 2009 season.

In just over 1,200 plate appearances between 2010-12, Figgins posted a .585 OPS and -0.9 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference. The Mariners designated Figgins for assignment when the 2012 season ended, with one year remaining on his deal.

On a minor league deal, the Dodgers get to see if Figgins has anything left to offer at virtually no risk. Figgins is versatile, having spent over 1,000 defensive innings in his career at three positions: third base, second base, and center field. He can also play in either outfield corner or at shortstop in a pinch, with some limited experience there during his 11-year career.

Johnny Damon still wants to play baseball

Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon is now 40 years old and didn’t play in 2013, but he has yet to fill out the paperwork to end his 18-year Major League career. In fact, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports, Damon would be willing to report to spring training if an interested team would like to bring him on board.

Boras said he asked Damon to let him know when he was all done. So far, Boras hasn’t heard those words from Damon, meaning Damon would love to resume his career after missing last season. Damon has remained in shape and would be willing to hook on if someone called.

Damon wrapped up the 2012 season with a career-worst .610 OPS as a member of the Indians. Only a few teams, including the Yankees and Astros, feigned interest in signing Damon in the off-season. As a result, he ended up watching the 2013 season from home. This seems to be the off-season of comebacks, though –Mark Mulder and Chone Figgins are two examples — so don’t write off Damon entirely yet.

Chone Figgins preparing a comeback attempt

chone figgins getty

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has the report

Figgins batted just .181/.262/.271 in 2012 — his final year with the Mariners — and was cut by the Marlins last March after signing a non-guaranteed minor league contract over the winter. The 35-year-old utilityman hasn’t been an effective player since leaving the Angels in 2009. He has over $50 million in career earnings.