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Chone Figgins ready for Seattle, batting behind Ichiro Suzuki

'You have a special thing in your heart for the Angels,' he says, 'but once you get off the field, this is a business.'

December 09, 2009|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Indianapolis — He has been an Angels sparkplug for most of the past seven years, a speedy leadoff batter who had a .395 on-base percentage, 114 runs and an American League-leading 101 walks in 2009.

But after finalizing a four-year, $36-million deal with Seattle on Tuesday, Chone Figgins will be part of a twin-turbo engine at the top of the Mariners order, teaming with baseball's best leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, to give Seattle a dynamic one-two punch.

"To be able to create havoc with Ichiro at the top of the order is going to be a whole lot of fun," Figgins said on a conference call Tuesday night. "I figure with me bringing a little more patience to the two-spot, it will make us an even more dangerous tandem. I'd be honored to hit second behind Ichiro."

Figgins might also be playing second in Seattle.

The versatile defender, who played six positions for the Angels, developed into a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman over the past three years in Anaheim.

But if the Mariners retain free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, Figgins probably will be the team's everyday second baseman.

"I just come to play; wherever you put me, I'll play," Figgins said. "They know I'm prepared for anything."

Figgins, who will be 32 at the start of 2010, also received a vesting 2014 option that could push the value of his deal to $45 million over five years.

Figgins will receive a $2-million signing bonus and salaries of $8 million next year, $9 million each in 2011 and 2012, and $8 million in 2013. The $9-million option for 2014 becomes guaranteed if he has 600 plate appearances in 2013.

The switch-hitter wouldn't discuss details of negotiations with the Angels, but it was clear the team's reluctance to add a fourth year to their offer was a huge factor in the infielder's decision to sign with Seattle.

"I would have loved to have come back to Anaheim, but things were different," Figgins said. "When it comes down to business, you deal with it. Maybe they had to move on. I had to move on as a player."

Figgins, whose pinch-running prowess helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series, thanked the Angels, who acquired him from Colorado for Kimera Bartee in 2001, for giving him his first crack at playing in the big leagues.

He acknowledged it will be awkward playing 18 or 19 games against his former team.

"It will feel different, because I came up with a lot of those guys, and they played a big role in helping me, and I helped them, especially the young infielders," Figgins said.

"They're all happy for me. I got some text messages from some of the guys, and they say I deserve [the contract]. It's going to be very interesting playing against them. They know they're going to get all I've got, as always. . . .

"You have a special thing in your heart for the Angels, but once you get off the field, this is a business."

The Angels allowed Figgins to walk because they believe they have a capable replacement at third base in Brandon Wood, the organization's top position-playing prospect for the past three or four years.

They also believe shortstop Erick Aybar, who hit .312 with five homers and 58 runs batted in last season, and utility infielder Maicer Izturis, who hit .300 with eight homers and 65 RBIs, are strong candidates to bat leadoff.

The Angels seem to be shifting their emphasis more to power -- they are pursuing free-agent outfielder Jason Bay -- and they had reservations about going four or five years for a player of Figgins' age. The team also probably was somewhat swayed by Figgins' postseason struggles.

In 35 career playoff games, Figgins hit .172 (21 for 122) with a .223 on-base percentage, 13 runs, six RBIs, four stolen bases, 35 strikeouts and six walks.

"We have a good system and some good internal candidates in Izturis, Aybar and Wood, who can do multiple things," Reagins said, when asked how tough a loss Figgins would be. "We still feel good about our infield."

After a 101-loss season in 2008, the Mariners improved to 85-77 last season, finishing 12 games behind the Angels. They signed Figgins and are believed to be pursuing Bay and free-agent pitcher John Lackey, an Angels rotation mainstay since 2003.

"Everybody loves a guy who can hit a three-run home run, but at the end of the day, you want to put the best club on the field," Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik said. " . . . We're having discussions about power, but there are a lot of ways to win games, with pitching, power, defense and speed. We'd like to have all of it."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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