Twins, Washburn Continue to Make Eyes At Each Other

Does anyone else feel like this one is inevitable?

The Twins had interest at the trade deadline this year.  There were trade rumors involving the Twins and Washburn back in February.  Back in August of '08, the Twins placed a waiver claim on Washburn and actually won it, but the Mariners in another moment of moron-mania screwed it up by asking Minnesota for one of their young starters instead of just taking the salary dump.  This is a romance that's been brewing for an awful long time, and with the Twins seemingly on the verge of becoming a premier team in baseball with one or two more quality additions I have little doubt that Washburn will do whatever he can to don a Twins uniform.

Bill Smith has already dropped hints that the front office will be taking a look at the starting pitcher options on the free agent market.  Washburn, apparently, fits the bill.  He wants to be here, he qualifies as a veteran (he turned 35 in August), and he's been a lock for averaging six innings a start over the course of his career.  Those are some pretty basic qualifications, but that doesn't mean they're bad ones.

As long as they're not the only ones.

I haven't made a secret of my reservations about having Washburn in a Twins uniform.  Allow me to illustrate why using the simplicity of the numbers, in case you remain unconvinced.

Year AGE IP GS FIP tRA K/9 BB/9
2006 30 187.0 31 4.78 4.88 4.96 2.65
2007 31 193.2 32 4.77 4.81 5.30 3.11
2008 32 153.2 26 4.72 5.59 5.10 2.93
2009 33 176.0 28 4.58 5.21 5.11 2.51

 

To make sure we're on the same page:  Washburn isn't getting any better as he gets older.  Which should surprise absolutely nobody.  In fact he's been on a steady decline for a couple of years, and his rebound in Seattle this summer (which I'll take a pit stop at in a moment) seems more like a blip on the radar than a sign of a late-career revival.

The best thing Washburn has going for him, apart from the fact that he should (note:  should) cost less than some of the other free agent starters on the market this winter, would be his durability (at least 28 starts seven of the last nine years).  But that should probably be a slight concern considering the problems with his knee at the end of the season, in spite of the arthroscopic surgery.  It's just another red flag for a guy who:

  • Has averaged a strikeout-to-walk ratio of less than 2:1 over the course of his career.
  • Can lose control at any time; first of the strike zone, then of his emotions.
  • Is a flyball pitcher (bad for next year's outfield defense) who is going to give up more than his share of bombs.
  • Isn't likely to out-play Minnesota's current top starters (Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, possibly Nick Blackburn)

Washburn had a bit of a revival in 2009.  Before his injury in Detroit he made 20 starts for Seattle and averaged 6.7 innings a go.  His fastball was legitimately a good pitch for the first time since 2002, and his slider was better than it ever had been.  He was stranding 80% of his base runners and opponents were managing a meager .249 BABIP.  None of that is sustainable.

Conclusions

Where this gets tricky for me is when I know the answer to this question:  does Jarrod Washburn make next year's rotation better?  Because as long as he's healthy, he probably does.  On paper, giving him 200 innings instead of Anthony Swarzak or Brian Duensing or Glen Perkins just might actually yield better results.  And in that sense, he could make the Twins better by stengthening the back end of the rotation.  We all know how the Twins like their depth.

Would it be a bad signing?  Depending on the contract, probably not.  I'm just hoping for something more.

I'll leave you with a conversation I had with a friend over Facebook.

Jesse wishes the Twins would stop flirting with Jarrod Washburn.  STOP IT.

Ben:
  Dodgers are flirting with Smotz... Have you ever been at a bar, and your friend is SOOOOO wasted drunk that he's chatting up the ugliest chick in the bar? Do you see them touch hands? Maybe even noses? You try to stop him but he's too drunk to believe you? At least the twins are chatting up a hottie. Who cares if they are let down, at least they're trying. All my teams gonna get is a hang over, crabs, and a rude awakening come tomorrow.

Jesse:
  yeah but at least your friend is going after a cougar. i mean, at least she USED to be hot, right? the twins are just going after the girl because she's there...she's only a hottie because the twins just drank all the way through happy hour.

Ben:
  Point taken.

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