Yankees could get Washburn-ed in trade

washburn_250.jpgIn one of those unrequited love affairs that never seems to end, John Heyman reports that the Yankees have made inquiries about the availability of Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn. The Yankees are naturally impressed by Washburn given that he pitches like a Cy Young winner whenever they see him. Though his record against the Bombers is only 5-6 in 13 career starts, his ERA is just 2.76. If they’ve beaten him, it’s because he likes to give up home runs, and they like to hit them, but since he hasn’t allowed them many walks or hits overall, the overall scoring has been kept to a minimum.

Sergio Mitre doesn’t seem like much of an answer to the fifth spot in the rotation, and they are understandably nervous about pulling Phil Hughes or Alfredo Aceves out of the bullpen, though these worries may ultimately be self-defeating. The Yankees might be able to get through the remainder of the campaign without a reliable fifth starter, and they can certainly make it through the playoffs without ever calling the fifth starter’s name, but it might not be a fifth starter they really need. They might need something more. CC Sabathia has been inconsistent, Andy Pettitte alternates good starts and bad, with the result that his ERA since April is 5.17, and the Yankees also have to worry about Joba Chamberlain hitting a wall in September (whether through an innings limit or fatigue). Say Joba pitches poorly in the fall. That would make the playoff rotation Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and a lot fingernail-biting (new slogan: Sabathia, Burnett, and pray for a pedicurist). Adding a pitcher of Washburn’s abilities would help ease those fears.

The downside to such an acquisition is that Washburn is having his best year since 2002, and the Yankees would surely have to overpay for that. This is a guy who had a 4.69 ERA a year ago. However, Washburn’s contract status mitigates against a big return, as he’s a free agent after the season. Then, of course, there’s the entire question of if the Mariners want to run up the white flag on their borderline involvement in the pennant race.

Washburn is a fly-ball pitcher, which seems like a bad idea in Yankee Stadium II, although being left-handed he should be at a theoretical advantage in the new park. Indeed, left-handed batters can’t touch him, batting .172/.231/.273 in 137 plate appearances. This is well below his career rates of .239/.295/.389, but let’s take it at face value for the moment. Washburn has good control but is usually very proficient at giving up home runs, leading the AL back in 2003. One of the reasons that he’s having such a good year is that in his average season, over seven percent of the flies he’s allowed have left the building. This year, the percentage is down to five, the lowest rate of his career, and yet there is no corresponding increase in his groundball rate. That screams fluke, something that could change at any time.

Still, if you take his proficiency against lefties as gospel and figure his presence will tilt some opposing lineups to the right side, perhaps his fly ball tendencies are not too troublesome. Whereas left-handed batters are hitting a home run once every 19 at-bats at the new park, right-handed batters have hit them at a more manageable (though still high) rate of one every 25 at-bats.

All of the above still leaves the difficult question of who to deal. The Mariners need batters more than anything else, and the Yankees don’t match up well in that regard. Austin Jackson seems like the kind of overhyped player who would bring more in trade than he will the Yankees in production, but with the outfield in flux both now (with Brett Gardner’s injury) and in the future (with free agent departures), the Yankees probably need to hold on to him, while dealing a Jesus Montero for a Jarrod Washburn seems like the kind of deal that a general manager could spend the rest of his life apologizing for, like Lou Gorman and Jeff Bagwell. Montero hit another home run this weekend, bringing his Double-A line to .309/.366/.537 with nine home runs in 149 at-bats. That line is tempered by Trenton’s wholly impossible home park–Montero is batting .229/.280/.357 in the Garden State capital, but .380/.443/.696 on the road. If he was playing in a fairer home park, there would be a clamor to move this guy to Triple-A or the Majors now. Flags fly forever, but this is the kind of hitting talent that could get his number retired if the Yankees can just find a place for him.


W-L    RS/G    RA/G    AVG    OBP    SLG    AB/HR    SB    CS    HR/9    BB/9    K/9
Yankees       15-5      5.6       4.6    .290    .379    .473    25    9    8    1.0     3.0   6.9
Rays            10-10    3.7     4.7    .228   .315    .361    42    19     6    1.0    2.6      7.6

The Yankees have stopped stealing bases with any effectiveness, and that’s not going to change during Brett Gardner’s absence… This is a huge series for the Rays–the Yankees could knock them well back in both the AL East and wild card race. The Rays are lucky to have broken even on their last 20 games given their offensive slump. Other than the indefatigable Ben Zobrist and a rebounding Dioner Navarro,  the entire offense has shut down this month. Carl Crawford is hitting .257/.333/.351; Jason Bartlett .238/.342/.349; Evan Longoria .197/.289/.382; Carlos Pena .145/.294/.290. What this means, of course, is that they’re due. Fortunately, the Yankees have Burnett, Sabathia, and Chamberlain going so it won’t be easy for the Rays to break out. They too have their best pitchers going this series, sort of, kind of. The pitching rotation, which lands on James Shields and Matt Garza, plus Scott Kazmir, who is motivated to turn things around after five weeks on the DL. He’s made five starts since coming back and the results have been mixed, with a 5.08 ERA in 28.1 innings.


  1. amdream23@yahoo.com

    As Geo. Steinbrenner said to Lou Piniella in 1987, ” I just won the pennant for you, I got you Steve Trout.” Hal can guarantee the pennant for Joe Girardi by getting him Jarrod Washburn.

    C’mon, mediocrity always sinks to its own level. The Yankee pitching is working, even without Wang. Breaking up the chemistry would be a mistake, especially for someone like Washburn.

  2. rennybaseball@gmail.com

    Those trade suggestions are downright scary. Washburn for Jackson or for Montero? Why not give them both and throw in Phil Hughes while we’re at it.

    And yeah, Joba (and only Joba apparently) has the potential to be a September failure and “hit a wall,” but never as if you, Mr. Goldman, is equally likely to ever “hit a wall” and find yourself with writer’s block, perhaps by tiring from writing about all the imagined ways that Joba will fail for 10 months of the year. That must be exhausting!

  3. wombatpete@iname.com

    What odd responses.
    Goldman is anti-Joba? Joba does have an innings limit this year, although one that would probably be extended if required in the playoffs. Although I don’t see any particular reason to think that Joba will hit a wall, he will be pitching more than he ever has and it’s not unreasonable to consider the possibility.
    But I wholly agree that Washburn would be a big mistake.
    He pitches to a sub-3 ERA vs. the Yankees? Well, that’s the one team he’s guaranteed never to face if traded to the Yankees. And his stats against everyone else are a tick worse if you remove his performances against the Yanks. Stats which weren’t very impressive to begin with.
    Mitre has potential upside. Not huge upside, but adequate. Sabathia will be fine – sites that measure such things have his velocity and movement at the levels his career leads us to expect. Pettitte might be a problem, but (injuries aside) he has, traditionally, been a 2nd-half pitcher… and if that is a problem, Washburn certainly isn’t the answer.

  4. igotmunsonedbybigern

    C’mon now Yanks brass. If they’re not gonna trade a bunch of their best prospects for a big name pitcher like Halladay, what would the sense be in trading a few for mediocrity like Washburn? It’s clicking right now. And if someone in the starting rotation does get hurt, they can pick up a guy later on that except for a waivers situation wont be available in the playoffs but can fill in till they get there.

  5. letsgoyankees

    Every time I read your blog I think “Oh my God we stink, how ate we in first place?” I’m not saying this is a bad thing or anything, but you just love playing the worst case scenario game, don’t you Steve?

  6. rich_in_nj

    while dealing a Jesus Montero for a Jarrod Washburn seems like the kind of deal that a general manager could spend the rest of his life regretting after being fired within a year.



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