When the current crop of free agent pitchers are discussed, the name that most frequently comes up as a fit for the Milwaukee Brewers is Jarrod Washburn. This isn't the first time the two have been linked together. In fact, Washburn has been mentioned as an option for the Brewers almost his entire career.
Washburn is a Wisconsin native, having pitched in college at the University of Oshkosh. The Brewers had interest in him after the 2005 season, but he chose to sign with the Seattle Mariners.
His name came up this year prior to the trade deadline in July. Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik reportedly asked for both Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar for the three month rental of Washburn. Brewers GM Doug Melvin wisely spurned the offer, but is again trying to lure the 35-year-old lefty to Milwaukee.
Other than his win-loss record, Washburn was having the best statistical season of his career for Seattle last season before being traded to the Tigers. That was after having the worst statistical season of his career in 2008.
Injuries hampered him once he was traded to the Tigers, and caused him to be very ineffective while in Detroit. Although surgery to repair his injured knee will have healed well in time for spring training, Washburn will have a lot of convincing to a team to give him a multi-year deal.
As is the case with most pitchers on the market this offseason, durability is a chief concern. Washburn has only pitched 200 innings in his career twice, the last time coming in 2003 for the Angels. Only five times in his 12-year career has he made more than 30 starts.
Washburn had the luxury of playing in SafeCo Field the last few years, which is notorious for being a pitcher's ballpark. He also had a very good defensive outfield behind him. Although Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun may be future Gold Glove winners, they are both still young and still experience growing pains in the field.
While Washburn may be hoping for a multi-year deal worth several million per year, the market may dictate something completely different. He just completed a four-year deal worth $37.5 million. Dreams of another contract similar to that may have died with his struggles in Detroit.
Many fans in Wisconsin seem to enjoy the idea of "one of their own" coming in and playing for the Brewers. The idea tends to cloud their judgment when assessing Washburn's worth and value, something the front office can't afford to have happen.
With the current crop of starting pitchers, Washburn may very well be slotted as a second or third starter. That doesn't speak to his abilities as a quality pitcher; that speaks to just how awful of a pitching staff the Brewers currently have assembled.
Money, of course, dictates everything in baseball. Washburn could be at a point in his career that he may like the thought of pitching for his hometown team. Maybe he will realize that his value isn't as high as some have thought.
He may be open to taking a one or even two-year deal for around $5 million per year. If he were open to such a deal, Melvin would have to at least consider the idea.
Washburn could also realize that this is likely his last chance at a big contract and simply go to the highest bidder. No one would fault him for that. The Brewers need to be smart enough to back away from the table with him if that turns out to be the scenario.
Everyone loves to see the hometown guy come and pitch for his home team. What fans love even more than that is a winning ball club. To achieve the latter, the Brewers need to avoid Jarrod Washburn this winter and go after cheaper, safer options.
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