It's time to pick up Washburn

July, 31, 2009

Guess this answers the question about whether the Seattle Mariners are buyers or sellers, eh? Jarrod Washburn is having a terrific season, one not enough fantasy owners have noticed, and now he's moving to the Detroit Tigers. For Washburn, he'll get a chance to appear in the postseason again (he made seven postseason starts for the Angels over the years). And the Tigers, like the Phillies with Cliff Lee, didn't have to give up their top prospects for a significant rotation upgrade.

The Tigers trade pitchers Luke French and Mauricio Robles to the Mariners, and since French was in the Detroit rotation and made five starts, Washburn likely will just replace him. French hadn't done a bad job, but the 23-year-old lefty was living dangerously, allowing 16 hits in his past two starts, covering 10 1/3 innings. He's not a big strikeout pitcher, nor was he one of Detroit's top prospects. The Mariners could place him in their rotation or send him to the minors, but regardless, there's not much fantasy value here. Robles is 20 and won't be a fantasy factor for awhile, if ever. The Mariners moved salary, more than anything else, and this could open up a rotation spot for Ian Snell. The former Pirate should be in the majors.

For some reason I cannot fathom, Washburn began this week owned in less than half of ESPN's standard mixed leagues. Even now, he's up to only 58 percent, despite having a better season than all but 16 starting pitchers on our Player Rater. The guy is leading the American League in WHIP and is third in ERA, having allowed only three runs in his past five starts, for a .74 ERA. Sure, Washburn has a career ERA on the wrong side of 4.00, and I can understand some ambivalence toward a guy who normally was a very hittable lefty and not a strikeout guy. However, he learned a new sinker, and it's clearly working. Time to reevaluate Washburn in fantasy. I think 20 starts certainly are enough of a sample size this season to add him at this point.

Ultimately, I don't think Washburn's value changes a whole lot with this trade. The Tigers haven't exactly been a murderer's row offensively, but they have scored more runs than Seattle. The ballpark change won't help Washburn, but he's pitched at Comerica Park eight times, and while his ERA is a bit inflated, I wouldn't read anything into that. This is a new pitcher. Figure Washburn, who has won eight of 20 starts, could win a greater percentage down the stretch. But what this trade deadline deal really points out is that Washburn should have been owned in fantasy in the first place.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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