Last offseason the Mariners signed Chone Figgins and moved him to second base, a position he hadn’t played regularly since 2005.
It didn’t go well, as Figgins compounded his disappointing production at the plate by struggling defensively, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 12.3 runs below average.
Not surprisingly, with 2010 third baseman Jose Lopez traded to the Rockies and top second base prospect Dustin Ackley on the verge of the majors the Mariners have decided to shift Figgins back to third base.
The shift has been assumed since Seattle acquired Brendan Ryan last month to presumably keep second base warm until Ackley is ready, and general manager Jack Zduriencik told Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald that he recently informed Figgins of the move.
Figgins at third base with Ryan at second base and Jack Wilson at shortstop is an elite defensive infield, although it won’t do much to help improve the Mariners’ historically awful offense. Ackley’s arrival should do that, at which point Ryan will likely shift into a utility role or split time with Wilson at shortstop.
Seattle has signed Josh Bard to a minor-league contract for the second straight offseason.
Last year he spent most of the first half at Triple-A before joining the Mariners for good in early July and hitting .214 with a .634 OPS in 39 games while backing up Adam Moore.
This time around he’ll compete with Moore for the job backing up Miguel Olivo, who the Mariners signed to a two-year, $7 million contract last month.
Bard has played for five teams in parts of nine seasons in the majors, and new Mariners manager Eric Wedge is familiar with him from their time together in Cleveland from 2003 to 2005.
UPDATE: According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, the Mariners and Brendan Ryan have not officially agreed to a new contract, though a deal is believed to be close.
3:45 PM: Three weeks after acquiring Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals for pitching prospect Maikel Cleto the Mariners have avoided arbitration with the infielder by agreeing to a two-year, $2.75 million deal, according to the Associated Press.
Ryan will reportedly earn $1 million this season and $1.75 million in 2012.
He fell out of favor in St. Louis last season by hitting just .223 with a measly .573 OPS and clashing with manager Tony LaRussa, but Ryan is among the elite defensive middle infielders in all of baseball and the Mariners will hope his hitting can bounce back to his .279/.333/.373 line prior to 2010.