Why Washburn?

Good question. I definitely do not want to see him in a Twins uniform in 2010, and so far, it appears neither does Washburn or Scott Boras. Well, at least not on the terms that Bill Smith suggested. So far, a 1 year, $5 million contract is on the table, but the two of them apparently either don’t want him to pitch for Minnesota, or at the very least, not for that length of time and/or amount of money. I do not want to see him come to Minnesota, but I don’t have a say in this. The following is my ideas of why the Twins want to sign him, with my retort following the ideas.

1. Washburn is a veteran pitcher.

So is Carl Pavano, albeit a fragile one.

2. Washburn is lefthanded.

So is Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins. Duensing and Perkins also have similar skill sets to Washburn, and they are guaranteed to be several million dollars cheaper than Washburn. If the Twins are so cost-conscious that they won’t even splurge on someone like Orlando Hudson, then why contradict yourself and sign someone else for a similar contract just because he plays a different position, especially one of lesser need?

3. Washburn pitched very well for the Mariners last year.

Yes he did, but he had one hell of a defense behind him, provided by Franklin Gutierrez, et al. covering the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Look at every season he had with Seattle by ERA: 4.67, 4.32, 4.69, 2.64.* Washburn did not start using a new pitch in 2009, nor did he make a mechanical adjustment (to my knowledge, anyway). He did add a little velocity (0.7-1.3 MPH) to all his pitches except for his curveball (-3.0 MPH) but when you’re only throwing 88 MPH or less, is that small of a gain in velocity really a big difference? As far as I can tell, Washburn’s great season was primarily due to luck and Death To Flying Things and his friends.

* In case you were curious, here’s the respective team UZR for the Mariners for each season as well: 27.7, -43.6, -20.9, 85.5. The Mariners were by far the best defensive team last year.

4. Washburn’s performance with Detroit was an anomaly and only caused by his knee injury.

Was this an anomaly? Yes. Was it only caused by the knee injury? No. By being traded, Washburn moved from a 85.5 UZR team to a 43.6 UZR team. Comerica Park was also more hitter-friendly than Safeco Field. The injury did hurt his performance, but a switch in defensive profiency and home park contributed as well. There’s no way that Washburn should be expected to fire another 7.00+ ERA, but we shouldn’t see another 2.64 ERA either.

Note: I just went to Washburn’s Wikipedia page. It says that he signed with the Twins for 1 year, $7 million. MLB Trade Rumors has no current reports that this is true, nor are there any reports on the Internet that say anything similar. Is someone wishfully thinking here?

Edit: Washburn’s page now says under his Minnesota Twins link, “Jarrod Washburn will never be a Twin.” Thank you, Liz Persons.

5. Washburn wants to pitch closer to home.

Sadly, Webster, WI is much closer to the Twins Cities than it is to Milwaukee. Like, almost 8 times closer to the Twin Cities than Milwaukee.

6. Signing Washburn will allow the Twins to further explore trading Liriano and/or Perkins.

In my opinion, if you don’t want to have to rely on Liriano or Perkins, you should just go ahead and trade them. I’m not really confident in relying on a chain reaction of events just so the Twins can improve their rotation and infield. However, I would gain confidence in this if the Twins did take care of the first event in the chain, but not if that means signing Washburn.

7. Washburn will prevent the Twins from having to rely on their younger pitchers again.

As I briefly said in #2, the rotation is a lesser need than the infield. I am more confident with a rotation filled with any of Duensing or Liriano compared to a lineup with any of Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, or Danny Valencia at 2nd and/or 3rd base (though if necessary, I’d probably take Valencia/Harris at 3rd and Punto at 2nd).

I’m not expecting Brian Duensing to pitch as well as he did in 2009, nor do I think that Francisco Liriano will have a post-surgery breakout season. I do think that they can pitch just as well in 2010 as Jarrod Washburn would for the Twins, and they would both be cheaper options. The Twins still have some room for improvement, but I don’t think that Washburn should be involved.

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11 Responses to “Why Washburn?”

  1. Jack Steal Says:

    Andrew,

    I am shocked by all the hatred for Jarrod Washburn!! I am usually the one who is negative about the Twins front office but in this case they get the benefit of the doubt. I like Washburn and think he would really make this rotation better. I am obviously not going to convince you or anybody else he would be a good free agent to sign but just answer these three questions for me.

    1. Jarrod Washburn is one of a handful of veteran pitchers left on the market and he wants to play for the Twins. What pitcher on the market would you go after that would be a better option, cheaper, and accept a one-year deal (not Garland or Davis)?

    2. Remember what the starting rotation was like during the first half of the season last year. Do you really have faith in Liriano/Baker/Slowey/Blackburn/Perkins and believe we should not upgrade our staff? Who cares about money the Pohlad family has enough.

    3. Carl Pavano has only been healthy one year in the last five. What does the team do if he goes down with a season ending injury? Do you believe Liriano/Duensing/Perkins could produce the results we need to win a divsion.

    Washburn is not in the prime of his career and does not deserve much more than $5 million a year but he does give you 160-180 IP every year and has always been healthy (except for knee injury last year). We have no depth in our starting rotation and he gives us that along with experience. Not to mention if we could trade Perkins for anybody that would be an added bonus. The bottom line is Washburn is a good option because he is workhorse.

    • Andrew Says:

      I must admit, the available starting pitchers isn’t as deep as I thought. Washburn does appear to be one of the better pitchers for the Twins to sign.

      1. I do not want Doug Davis, he walks far too many batters and his WHIP is not that good. I think of Jon Garland as being the same pitcher as Nick Blackburn and could give about the same level of production as Washburn, but possibly at a cheaper price. Knowing the Twins, however, they’d prefer to have at least one LHP in the rotation.

      2. I have faith in Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, and Pavano (provided he stays healthy). I would like Liriano as the 5th starter because if he could get his confidence back up and fix his fastball, he could be a very solid part of the rotation. I’d expect Washburn to have a 4.50 ERA or so, and Liriano is certainly capable of matching that.

      3. If Pavano does get hurt, then the Twins are in a tough spot to recover. I don’t have a problem if Perkins/Manship/Swarzak have a handful of starts during 2010, but I do have a problem if they’re allowed to pitch a significant portion of the season. This really depends on if Pavano gets hurt and if he does, the severity of the injury.

      Four additional things:

      1. If the Twins are going to complain about not having much money to spend, then turn around and chase after someone with $5 million, then I think they should go after an infielder (mainly a 2nd baseman since Danny Valencia will probably be in the majors mid-season or in 2011). Plus, how is going after a Scott Boras client helpful to keeping costs down?

      2. A 1 year contract is obviously a short-term fix. Pavano and Washburn’s contracts would expire at the end of the season, putting the Twins back to where they were at the beginning of this offseason. Next year’s free agent class is supposed to be good, but who says the Twins will go spend more money next offseason than they will this one?

      3. I’m sure this has been mentioned on your show several times. The Twins make improvements only to make the playoffs or to be competitive in the AL Central, rather than build a team that will certainly play well against teams like the Yankees. I’d prefer to see the Twins sign someone that clearly improves the team, rather than one that is a marginal improvement.

      4. Maybe I’m being stubborn and not trying to think so I can make a point, but I can’t remember the last time the Twins signed an innings-eater type of pitcher and considered it a success.

  2. Joel Thingvall Says:

    Plus, who do the Twins lose if they have to make a 40-man roster space for the guy?

    • Andrew Says:

      Removing someone like Anthony Swarzak or Jeff Manship might make sense (SP for SP). I doubt a recent addition (if the Twins didn’t care about them, they would have left these guys exposed for the Rule 5 draft in the first place) or Drew Butera (currently 3rd string catcher) would be removed.

  3. Topper Says:

    I don’t think I’m worried as much about what we lose DIRECTLY by signing him. The problem is what we lose indirectly: we don’t use that money more effectively as Andrew said — if we’re so cash strapped we should be more judicious about spending $5M on a mediocre player.

    Also, the free agent market isn’t the only place to find pitchers — and this year it isn’t a good place to find them. A trade is probably a much better idea. I don’t want to keep bandying about names like Ricky Nolasco or Josh Johnson, but there are other organizations out there with pitching depth — perhaps an Aaron Harang could be had for a mediocre prospect?

  4. Josh Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Topper. By signing Washburn, you most likely lose the ability to add an infielder. I think we all imagine that $5 million +/- a couple is about what the Twins have left. We are in desperate need of an infielder. A #5 pitcher is a luxury at this moment. If we were talking about Nolasco or Josh Johnson or Brandon Webb, it would be a totally different story, but we are talking about Jarrod fricking Washburn, a guy who will turn 36 who clearly had a lucky couple months that outshines a consistent period of mediocrity.

    The “innings eater” notion is such a cop-out. That reasoning is why Livan Hernandez still has a job. He doesn’t get hurt and he doesn’t abuse your bullpen, but more often that not, he’ll put up 4 to 6 runs in 7 innings. I’d rather have a guy go 6 with a quality start versus a veteran who saves the bullpen 1 damn inning yet yields a slugfest.

    But my main issue with Washburn is that 5 million is waaaaaay too much for his talent level. $2 million… sure, but 5!?! I think we can all agree that Washburn had a great year that doesn’t necessarily jive with his usual numbers. I think we can also conclude that Francisco Liriano will pitch better next season but had a pretty rough 2009. Keeping that in mind, Washburn was 2.1 wins above replacement level last year in 176 innings. The combination of Liriano and Duensing was 2.2 WAR in 181.2 innings last year. So my question is, why would you pay 5 million and knock one guy out of the rotation with significant ace potential when you can get the same production?

    And don’t kid yourselves that Washburn would sniff a start in the postseason. Again… is $5 million worth that? If an injury strikes, make a trade and actually grab an impactful starter, not a mediocre has-been.

  5. Jack Steal Says:

    Well first off Liriano has about as much ace potential as Livan Hernandez. He has a headful of bad wiring and should be traded now while you can still get something for him. I like Brian Duensing but to rely on him in 2010 is a mistake because he is a rookie. Once again who cares if the Twins spend $5-7 million on a mediocre innings eater the Pohlad family has more than enough!! MORE THAN ENOUGH!!!

    The Twins have no intention of spending money to improve at second/third base. I said it earlier in the season and other bloggers slammed me but it looks like it’s true. Crede will be signed to play third and Punto will play second. Maybe we get lucky and Orlando Cabrera gets signed to play second base but other than that this roster is set. It’s unfornate but true.

    • Spookymilk Says:

      It isn’t Liriano’s “head” that’s the problem. He had an injury that sometimes ends careers. Between that and not understanding the extremely obvious problems with Washburn (I watched some of his games with the Mariners in ’09, and he was most definitely saved by the defense), you just don’t seem to get baseball.

      Also, signing Orlando Cabrera would not constitute “getting lucky.” He reaches base less often than nearly everyone in the majors, and his defense has fallen so far it doesn’t make up for his near-total lack of hitting.

      • Andrew Says:

        I will agree with Jack Steal about one thing, and that is Liriano’s head. It’s not necessarily in the same way as someone like Delmon Young, but it’s in the fact that we believe that he lacks confidence after having Tommy John surgery. I don’t know if you remember, but Liriano had a start in 2009 where he pitched very poorly, and he said after the game that he didn’t know what to throw at the batters he faced. Jack suggested to me on one of his podcasts that Liriano lacks confidence because he’s no longer a dominant pitcher, and I do believe that. He grew up throwing his fastball and slider past hitters, but now he needs to learn how to command his pitches and rely on a change-up more often (along with changing his delivery to put less stress on his elbow). These are all mechanical issues, but I can see how they would mess with his mind as well.

  6. TT Says:

    While Washburn’s number certainly were helped by Safeco field, they were still better than most of the rest of the Mariners staff. In other words, Washburn pitched well even when put in context.

    When was the last time a team got through the year with five starters? The fact is the Twins pitching depth is questionable after the first four guys. And, if past experience holds, even one of those guys will likely get injured or have a meltdown. You can never have too much pitching as last year’s Twins should have demonstrated.

    As for offense at second and third base, the Twins challenge next year is not likely to be offense any more than that was the problem last season. Punto is a solid defensive second baseman with a decent ability to get on base. Third base is a bit more unsettled with Harris and Tolbert really the only candidates. Tolbert is better defensively and Harris has the better bat. It would be nice if they can upgrade, but bringing Crede back would be fine.

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