Over the last 24 hours, as rumors circulated that the Mariners were leaning towards hanging onto Jarrod Washburn, the collective Seattle fanbase prepared for another trade deadline disaster. We were used to those, after all.
As a Mariner fan, this trade makes me want to jump up and down and hug someone. The M’s turned a 35-year-old lefty strike throwing flyballer who is due $3.5 million over the rest of the season and then becomes an expensive free agent into a 24-year-old lefty strike thrwoing flyballer who is due $0 over the rest of the year and won’t be a free agent until after 2015. And they got a 20-year-old lefty with huge strikeout numbers in A-ball to boot.
French isn’t going to be an ace, but let’s be honest, neither is Washburn. His value is entirely tied to an ERA that is, quite simply, a fluke. His 2.64 ERA is more than a run lower than his 3.75 FIP… and his FIP is deflated by an unsustainable 6.4% HR/FB rate. In reality, Washburn has pitched like a guy who deserves an ERA more like 4.4, but thanks to the wonders of good defense, a ballpark perfectly suited to his skills, and some good luck, he has the appearance of something more than a back-end starter.
A back-end starter, though, is exactly what he is. The addition of a sinker and confidence in his big slow breaking ball have allowed him to marginally improve this year, but the step up is in small percentages, not large gains. Tigers fans wondering what to expect from Washburn should be thinking a mid-4s ERA, as long as you put some good defenders behind him on days he pitches.
Worse for Detroit, Washburn is a Type B free agent, but offering him arbitration would be borderline insane. Coming off a career year, with a previous $10 million salary, he’d easily get $14 or $15 million if taken to arbitration, and he’s probably not even worth half that as a free agent. So, while the Tigers give up a couple of interesting young arms for a rental, they won’t even get draft pick compensation when he leaves this winter.
Mariner fans are rejoicing for good reason. They just moved an overvalued asset for a couple of interesting, cheap young pitchers. This is a great trade for Seattle. Detroit? I think you’re about to be disappointed by what you acquired.