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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 30, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Jarrod Washburn: “Fallback frenzy” could get him traded

washburn.jpg

Here’s my theory on Jarrod Washburn’s situation over the next 24 hours until the trade deadline (almost literally 24 hours; it’s at 1 p.m. Pacific Time).

There were, really, just three starting pitchers coveted by contending teams this July. One was Cliff Lee, who got traded to the Phillies yesterday. One, of course, is Roy Halladay, whom I still believe will get traded despite the Blue Jays’ posturing that they’re content to keep him.

The other is Jarrod Washburn. That’s assuming that the Diamondbacks are sincere when they say Dan Haren is not on the market. Erik Bedard would have been on that list, but as has been the case every step of the way in the Bedard trade, it didn’t work in the Mariners’ favor.

There are your Doug Davises and your Aaron Harangs who might be available, but none others currently on the market (that we know) that have pitched as consistently well as Washburn. In fact, he has been brilliant recently (4-0, 0.74 in his last five starts) and even has the bonus of playoff experience, which contending teams love. He’s getting a lot of love from contending GMs right now.

And that’s a lot of contending GMs. After last night’s games, there still 20 teams within six games of their division lead or the wild-card leader. Two-thirds of the league that can still fashion itself as a would-be contender. If you think six games is too far out, there are 18 teams less than five games back. And I’m willing to bet that virtually every one of those 20, or 18, teams believe they could really use one more good starting pitcher for the stretch drive — some desperately so.

Only one team is going to get Halladay, unless they split him in two, and the team that gets only his left arm is going to be very, very unhappy. (They could do a top-bottom split, I suppose, but…oh, never mind).

So that’s going to leave a lot of teams, at the 11th hour, in a semi-panic, desperate to come up with pitching help. Teams in certain large markets always feel the need to show their fans that they’re doing something to boost the team for the stretch. And some GMs feel they need to show their team — the players in the clubhouse — the same thing.

Jack Zduriencik has the luxury of sitting back and waiting to see what offers come his way as teams come to the realization they’re not going to get Halladay.Jarrod Washburn will start to look better and better.

This is where “fallback frenzy” comes into play. Jarrod Washburn is the No. 1 fallback option of this trade-deadline season. And since the Blue Jays have been asking for each team’s absolute blue-chip, A1, top-of-the-farm-system prospects for Halladay, the Mariners’ demands might seem more reasonable if they just ask for the next tier down — their A2s, not the one best prospect, but damn good ones. Teams might be so grateful not to give up their Alcides Escobar and Kyle Drabek types that they’re willing to part with more cumulative talent than they intended to.

It didn’t hurt Seattle’s bargaining position that word is filtering out that the Mariners are content to hang onto Washburn, believing they have a good chance to negotiate a contract extension.

It’s always good to bargain from a position of power, and the Mariners definitely have that potential with Washburn. If they can get two or more iteams into a bidding war, there just might be one of them that makes them an offer too good to pass up — the kind that can fill multiple needs.

I know many of you are saying, “Wait, Jarrod Washburn is going good, but teams aren’t going to give up the farm for him.” Normally, I’d agree, but we’ve all seen that the pressure of the trade deadline, and what I always call “pennant lust” , can cause otherwise rational GMs to do irrational things.

The Mariners should wait and see if that happens now. Trust me — Jarrod Washburn, their prime trade chip, is looking better by the hour.

(Associated Press photo)

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