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Teams pursuing Washburn are making a mistake

Dec 2, 2009, 11:58 AM EDT

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Twins, Brewers, Mariners, and Rangers are in the mix to sign free agent Jarrod Washburn. Meanwhile, the Tigers declined an arbitration offer and apparently have no interest in re-signing Washburn despite trading two prospects to get him at midseason.
Washburn went 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in eight starts following the trade, allowing 35 runs in 43 innings before missing the final three weeks with a knee injury that required offseason surgery, so it’s understandable that Detroit wants nothing to do with him. Other teams would be smart to follow suit, although at least in the Mariners’ case they know what they’d be getting in Washburn.
An extreme fly-ball pitcher who took advantage of Seattle’s power-deflating ballpark and historically great outfield defense to post a 2.64 ERA through 20 starts this year, his struggles in Detroit can perhaps be blamed on the knee problems. Regardless of that he’s a soft-tossing 35-year-old with mediocre control and a horrible strikeout rate who hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2003.

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching
measures how well a pitcher performed with luck and defense removed from the equation, and since that last 200-inning season Washburn has posted the following xFIP totals: 5.06, 5.01, 5.35, 5.30, 5.11, 4.97. Not surprisingly xFIP doesn’t think very much of extreme fly-ball pitchers who lack pinpoint control and don’t miss any bats.
Once you add in his age, knee surgery, and likely multi-year contract demands Washburn is the epitome of a bad free-agent target. He’s a back-of-the-rotation starter who has gotten by on an awful lot of smoke and mirrors, and if Washburn has any chance to be worth a multi-year commitment he needs to land with a team that has a pitcher-friendly ballpark and outfielders who can chase down his mistakes.

  1. APBA Guy - Dec 2, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    You’d think after the Carlos Silva, Jeff Suppan, Chan Ho Park, etc bad contracts that Major League front offices would have figured this stuff out by now. xFIP doesn’t lie.

  2. David - Dec 4, 2009 at 9:42 AM

    Aaron kind of sort of maybe alluded to this, but I don’t think he’s a bad fit for the Mariners. xFIP doesn’t like, like APBA Guy said, but if you’ve got a power-deflating ballpark and a historically good outfield defense, I don’t see why you don’t take a flier on Washburn. Unless, of course, teams like the Twins and Brewers are driving up his demands by offering too much. (The thought makes me want to vomit.)

  3. Darrel - Dec 4, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    I see a return to Seattle in Washburn’s future too. Twins GM Bill Smith has made a habit of making egregious and sketchy deals with less than stellar players (not to mention some lousy trades) so his having ANY contact with Washburn’s agent should alarm any Twins fan. I sincerely hope that Brewers GM Doug Melvin is more desperate for a back-end of the rotation guy than Smith will be!

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