Saturday, January 9, 2010

The pursuit of Washburn

Here's a sentence you may never again see from me: Thank God for Scott Boras.

The Star Trib's LaVelle Neal says the Twins offered Jarrod Washburn a one-year, $5 million deal, which Boras (Washburn's agent) rejected.

The Twins keep playing Russian roulette with Washburn and dodging their own bullet. They tried to trade for Washburn in mid-year 2008, and the then-management in Seattle wasn't bright enough to dump his bloated contract on them. Someday the Twins won't be so lucky, and they'll wind up stuck with him.

Boras-Washburn erred in turning down this latest contract. Even discounting the notion that Washburn wants to play close to home (he lives in Webster, Wis.), his best shot at a contract is with an organization, like the Twins, skeptical of statistical analysis.

The stat-savvy operations have discounted his impressive 2009 Seattle line (8-6, 2.64) as a mirage conjured up by a spacious home park and off-the charts outfield defense. The Twins have no Ichiro in right field, no Franklin Gutierrez in center. We don't know how the new stadium's going to play, but few parks are as accommodating to flyball pitchers as Seattle's.

All this suggests to me that the Twins should stay far away from Washburn. They have four set starters (Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey) and a passel of contenders for the fifth spot. As a fan, I'd much rather pay to see Brian Duensing pitch than Washburn; as an organization, the Twins should much prefer to pay Duensing $500,000 (actually less) to pitch than $5 million (or more) to Washburn.

On the other hand ... perhaps they have reason to doubt that Slowey's wrist is recovered. They should have doubts about Pavano putting up a second straight full season. Duensing and Francisco Liriano are not pitchers of established quality. Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak are even less established.

So I can understand why the Twins would be prowling about for starting depth. But $5 million is not an amount I see them walking away from in mid-May when Washburn has imploded, a la Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz.

A $1 million deal, I can see. Offering $5 million is asking for trouble. Having Scott Boras turn it down is priceless.

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