There's an old saying in baseball. If you can win now, win now. It looks like the Detroit Tigers think they can win now.
Three years removed from a World Series appearance, the AL Central-leading Tigers have made a move to stabilize their spotty starting rotation, trading pitching prospects Luke French and Mauricio Robles for Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn.
French (1-2, 3.38 ERA), a 2004 eighth-round pick by the Tigers, has spent considerable time in the majors recently, making seven appearances and five starts. The 23-year-old has shown flashes of big league ability, but saw his youth surface occasionally with uneven performances.
Robles, 20, has split time this season between the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lakeland Flying Tigers, A and High-A affiliates of the Tigers. He was selected to the Midwest League All-Star Game this season, but was promoted to Lakeland and unable to attend.
Going the other way is Washburn (8-6, 2.64 ERA), a journeyman pitcher with a career 4.02 ERA, though in recent years he has been trending toward the high-four range in that category.
Washburn has been dominant of late. His last five starts have included a complete game shutout, 36.2 innings pitched, four wins (including one against the Tigers), and a mere three earned runs. The Mariners have won all five games.
The move helps to solidify the top of the Tigers rotation, giving them a top three of Justin Verlander (12-5, 3.16 ERA), Edwin Jackson (7-5, 2.59 ERA), and Washburn. The bottom of the rotation is still a concern, however, as Armando Galarraga (5-9, 4.84 ERA) has struggled mightily between the occasional serviceable outing and the pitcher that had best filled the role of fifth starter, French, was sent to Seattle in this deal.
The move ensures that the young Rick Porcello (9-7, 4.62 ERA) will be a big piece of the Tigers push for a pennant, but he will be allowed to do so as the fourth pitcher in the rotation.
The best news is that every member of the new rotation, Verlander, Jackson, Washburn, Porcello, and Galarraga, have proven at some point that they are capable of getting big league hitters out.
The Tigers have struggled to put together quality pitching performances and offensive competence in the same game this season. The addition of Washburn and the return from injury of Carlos Guillen need to have the impacts that the Tigers believe they will, or the powerful White Sox or savvy Twins will overtake Detroit down the stretch.