BY John Hickey 06:43PM 01/28/2011

Figgins trade rumors continue to escalate

Veteran third baseman Chone Figgins is rumored to be prized by the A’s, the Blue Jays and, perhaps, the Angels.

Chone Figgins - Seattle Mariners - 2010 - 2

The rumor mill has Chone Figgins again available in trade / Ben Van Houten, Mariners

There doesn’t seem much doubt that the Seattle Mariners are willing to trade third baseman Chone Figgins in order to free up payroll money.

But so far at least, the Mariners have not asked Figgins to waive his no-trade contract, which would be a mandatory first step if some kind of deal is near. He’s due to make $9 million in 2011, the second year of a four-year deal, and that’s one-tenth of Seattle’s total budget.

There are reports that Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik’s phone is alive with calls from Oakland and Toronto, but Figgins has a limited no-trade contract, and Oakland is one of the teams on that list.

The Contra Costa Times first reported the A’s current level of interest, and ESPN.com said Toronto also could be interested. Earlier reports indicated the Angels, who lost out on a chance to land Adrian Beltre, were mulling over making a move for Figgins, who played in Anaheim his entire career before 2010.

How this would impact the Mariners is hard to say. One possibility is that the current Oakland third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, could head Seattle’s way, and that would add a little bit of pop to the Mariner lineup as well as settling the question of where, exactly, Figgins fits in the Seattle lineup.

A longtime leadoff hitter, Figgins seemed miscast as a No. 2 hitter last year with Seattle, his first year with the Mariners after being signed away from the Angels as a free agent.

But the Blue Jays need a third baseman, too, and one suggestion is that a three-way deal might send pitching to Seattle with the Jays getting Kouzmanoff and the A’s landing Figgins.

Seattle seems to have taken just such a proposal as a possibility in getting to this point in the off-season. After the Mariners traded last year’s third baseman, Jose Lopez, they traded with St. Louis for infielder Brendan Ryan, who is slotted for second base but who could play third. Adam Kennedy, who made news Thursday when being pulled over for a DUI in Southern California, also can play third.

If Ryan moves over from second to third, veteran Josh Wilson and former first-round draft pick Dustin Ackley could compete this spring for the starting job at second base.

And the club also has several unproven players who could play the position, including former top choice Matt Tuiasosopo, who has never been given more than a cursory chance to play third, who also can man the position, and Matt Mangini, who hit .313 with 18 homers at Tacoma last season.

None of the options would seem to address the Mariners’ offensive shortcomings, but the $9 million that would be freed up might be able to do that.

John Hickey is also Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)

Twitter: @JHickey3


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