League at 1.068.
Just two days after acquiring Jack Wilson and Ian Snell from the Pirates and saying "No one is throwing up the white flag," Mariners general manger Jack Zduriencik seems to have done just that. With Friday's trade of Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers, the Mariners sent a signal that they are not going to make up the eight-game deficit staring at them in the AL West or the 6 1/2-game deficit -- behind four other teams -- they face in the wild card race.
In adding Washburn, the Tigers may now have the top starting rotation in the American League. Detroit already ranks in the top five in the American League in ERA (4.08, second to the Mariners), opponent batting average (.260), fifth in strikeouts and second in fewest hits allowed. And that was before they added Washburn, who is 8-6 with a 2.64 ERA and an AL-best 1.068 WHIP. He's been especially good of late, going 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA in his last 36 2/3 innings pitched, which includes seven innings of scoreless ball two starts ago in a win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Washburn brings some much-needed depth and balance to the Tigers' righty-dominated rotation. Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, Armando Galarraga and Rick Porcello are all righties. And while Galarraga and Porcello have been effective, Porcello is a prized prospect who is just 20 years old, meaning his innings count will be kept under close watch. Washburn ranks 16th in the AL in innings pitched and could ease some of the burden on the back-end starters in Detroit's rotation. He figures to slot into a top-three spot, which would put him in line for some postseason starts should the Tigers get there (they currently lead the AL Central by two games over the White Sox and 2 1/2 over the Twins).
Washburn's exit is a sign that Zduriencik is not only pulling the plug on this season but keeping an eye on next year's payroll as well. Washburn was not likely to be a Type-A free agent, and in order to get a compensatory pick for him had he left as a free agent, the Mariners would have had to offer him arbitration. Had Washburn accepted that offer, he would surely have been in line for a raise over the $10.35 million he's making this season. Instead of having to pay him a huge salary, or get just a single draft pick in exchange, the Mariners get two players who are already progressing through pro ball. One is a major-league ready starter right now (Luke French) who comes cheaply and is under team control for six years, and the other is a 20-year-old (Mauricio Robles) with promise. Neither, however, was projected as a top prospect in the Tigers system, which is a bit curious considering Washburn's performance this year and the Tigers small lead in the AL Central.
French, a 23-year-old rookie, had gone 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in seven games (five starts) for the Tigers and figures to join the Mariners rotation right away. He's significantly improved his control from last season, when he had 88 strikeouts but 60 walks in 170 innings. This year, he had 72 K's and 20 walks in 81.2 innings pitched in Triple-A before his big league call-up, where he's had 19 K's and 11 walks in 29.1 IP.
The 20-year-old Robles has been pitching at high-A for the first time this season, going 4-4 with a 4.63 ERA.
The question now becomes whether the Twins and White Sox will try and match the Tigers' move in an effort to close the gap in the AL Central. Detroit has been in first place by itself all but one day since May 16 and Friday's trade was done to ensure that they'll stay there.