12/08/09 10:30 PM EST
Figgins' Angels run comes to close
Veteran leaves admirers behind as he heads to Seattle
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
If he thinks everybody is happy, he can't be reading the e-mails from fans feeling a sense of loss as the Angels move forward with Brandon Wood and Maicer Izturis assuming Figgins' old job at third base."I would love to [have] come back to Anaheim," said Figgins, who will do it now as an American League West rival in a road uniform, "but things were different. They chose to go a different way, and I chose to go a different way. Everybody's happy with the decision." Figgins feels the Angels are in good hands with Izturis, who had a locker next to his in the Anaheim clubhouse, and Wood, who has waited patiently for his opportunity to fulfill his exceptional potential. "Izturis has already proven himself," Figgins said. "Brandon Wood's done a great job in the Minor Leagues. He's a great kid and gets his opportunity to play. He deserves the opportunity to play, and now he has his chance." An All-Star for the first time in 2009, enjoying a career year at 31, Figgins embraces the prospect of playing with a pair of legends -- Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki. Figgins said he expects to bat second, behind Ichiro. "You grow up watching Griffey, and it's something I'm very honored to be, on his team," Figgins said. "To be watching one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time, Ichiro ... to hit behind him is going to be very interesting -- and a whole lot of fun." Figgins doesn't know yet if he'll play third or second base. Adrian Beltre, the Mariners' third baseman the past five seasons, is a free agent. If Beltre returns to Seattle, Figgins likely would move to second. But he's also capable of playing the outfield at a high level. Figgins' versatility is part of his appeal, along with his work ethic, speed and determination. He hit .298 in 2009 with a career-best .395 on-base percentage and stole 42 bases. His 114 runs scored were second in the AL to Boston's Dustin Pedroia. Figgins also played Gold Glove-caliber defense in the eyes of Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Every year," Figgins said, "I keep getting better. That's all you ask for a player. There's been a lot of talk about guys [being] 34, 35, 36. They keep getting better." The Angels are believed to have offered Figgins a three-year deal in the $24 million range, but neither the club nor the player would confirm that. Part of the appeal with Seattle for Figgins was his familiarity with manager Don Wakamatsu, who managed in the Angels' system when Figgins was in the Minors, and several of Wakamatsu's coaches. "It was a good fit," Figgins said. "They know the kind of player I am, my work ethic. I was wanted [in Seattle]. It's always a great thing to be wanted." He'll carry good memories from Anaheim, having been part of a World Series championship team in 2002 -- primarily as a pinch-runner -- and playing important roles on five division champions in the past six seasons. The Angels got a lot of mileage out of a player they acquired from Colorado in 2001 for Kimera Bartee -- one of the best trades in franchise history. "It was my first big league team," Figgins said of the Angels. "It's where I got my first opportunity in the big leagues. "You understand this is a business. It'll feel different [coming back to Anaheim]. A lot of those guys you come up with, played big roles in helping them ... they're happy for me." Figgins departs as the franchise's all-time leader in steals with 280, featuring an AL-high 62 in 2005. His .291 career average is seventh in club history.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.