01/28/11 6:35 PM EST
Seattle GM downplays Figgins-to-A's talk
Zduriencik says plan remains for veteran to stay with Mariners
By Jane Lee and Greg Johns / MLB.com
The Contra Costa Times was the first to report that Oakland was pursuing Figgins in exchange for Kouzmanoff and possibly a pitcher.
"I'm looking forward to Figgins being our starting third baseman," Zduriencik said. "He'll be here tomorrow [for the Mariners' FanFest]. He's been agreeable to moving back to third base and that's our plan, to have Chone be our Opening Day third baseman."
Oakland officials have not commented on the report.
The A's previously -- and unsuccessfully -- attempted to lure in Adrian Beltre this winter, signaling the notion that they're not entirely satisfied with Kouzmanoff. Beltre ultimately turned down a six-year deal worth $76 million from Oakland in favor of a tour with the Rangers.
It marked the second straight year in which Beltre spurned an offer from the A's, who subsequently avoided arbitration with Kouzmanoff last week by way of a one-year, $4.75 million contract.
The 29-year-old Kouzmanoff compiled career lows in batting average (.247), on-base percentage (.283), slugging percentage (.396) and OPS (.679) in 2010 but also led the team with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs. Figgins, meanwhile, doesn't boast the same power potential but offers speed, versatility and a high on-base percentage.
Figgins has $26 million remaining on his contract through 2013, along with a $9 million vesting option for 2014 based on plate appearances -- numbers that appear high for a blue-collar A's team. But Oakland's brass has exuded no problem in giving away money this winter, as evidenced by the recent signings of relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, both of whom garnered two-year deals worth $8.1 million and $10.5 million, respectively.
The 33-year-old Figgins hit just .259 as Seattle's second baseman last season but stole 42 bases and walked 74 times. Just a year prior, he led the league with 101 walks and stole 42 bases to go along with a .298/.395/.393 line for the Angels.
After trading Jose Lopez to Colorado, Zduriencik approached Figgins in December about moving back to third base this season. Figgins struggled out of the gate last year after signing his four-year deal with Seattle and then being moved to second base and also batting second behind Ichiro Suzuki in the Mariners' lineup.
New Seattle manager Eric Wedge says Figgins will remain in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, but the Mariners feel he got more comfortable in that role as last season progressed.
"A lot of things were tied into Chone's year last year," Zduriencik said at Thursday's pre-Spring Training media day in Seattle. "It was his first big contract, there was switching organizations, switching positions, batting in a different spot in the batting order. That's a lot. He got more comfortable the last two months. I think he was the player we thought he was going to be.
"This offseason as we evaluated our club, I called Chone and said this is what we're thinking. He said, 'Give me the reason why.' I told him he's an elite infielder at third base and we have other [middle] infielders. He said, 'If it helps us win, I'm in.'"