In the end, this is ironically a breath of fresh air if you ask me. Adrian Beltre will still get paid plenty well for his services. He already has a boatload of money. It's rare for a player in his career to get two significant multi-year contracts in free agency. I honestly don't think Beltre's decision was about the money. It was about exploring his options, and picking his best chance to contribute to a team built to win now. He couldn't have done that if he had accepted arbitration.
Now, on to the newest Mariners, and Beltre's likely replacement at the hot corner, Chone Figgins. He officially signed yesterday for 4 years, $36 million, with an optional fifth year in the deal that vests basically if he's pretty awesome for the four years of the deal guaranteed. It's quite a bit of money for a slap-hitting, 30-something, diminutive professional pest.
The Figgins contract is money well spent though. I am a little concerned about how the deal will look a few years from now, but there is a good chance that Chone ages gracefully. His greatest assets are speed, plate discipline, a high contact rate, and good defense at third base, one of the more premium positions. Speed tends to stick around for a while (look at Ichiro), plate discipline tends to improve, while contact and defense tend to erode. However, improved plate discipline helps offset a diminishing contact rate, and Figgins could slide over to second or into the outfield as his defense diminishes.
What gets me excited about the Figgins deal is what it does for the M's offense. It has an identity now. Ichiro and Figgins should be at the top of the order (personally, I would keep Ichiro in the leadoff spot, and bat Figgins second). Chone's patient approach at the plate offsets the drawbacks of Ichiro's aggresive mindset, freeing Ichiro up even more to do what he does so well. However, that's the only major difference between the two at the dish. They both thrive on putting the ball and play, and letting their legs do the rest.
When a team faced the 2009 Mariners, they gave closer looks to Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and may a few other players who happened to be hot at the time. It was a handful of individuals. When a team faces the 2010 Mariners, they will always start with the top of the lineup now, and trying to deal with the pressure it can generate. It's more than a couple of players. It's an identity, a unique facet of the Mariners offense that will worry opponents. While Beltre has offensive value, his skillset does not mesh with Ichiro's to produce that kind of identity.
Plus, it's sweet taking such a big piece of the Angels' success away from them...although, the last time the M's signed a corner infielder away from LA of A (Scott Spiezio), it was a disaster. I liked that move a ton when it happened too, more than I like the Figgins deal right now, actually.
Figgins doesn't bring a bad back to Seattle though, or a stupid red tuft of hair below his chin. He brings skills that this team needs, and meshes beautifully with the talent already here. The price makes me hesitant, but not despondent. That's probably the sign of a fair deal. Welcome to your new home, Chone. I can't wait to see you slap that ridiculous rally monkey silly.