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July 31, 2009 at 8:36 AM

Jarrod Washburn traded to Detroit for pitching prospect Luke French, other minor leaguer

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The Detroit Tigers were a team we told you to watch on the periphery a couple of days ago in this whole Jarrod Washburn thing. And sure enough, they stepped in and nabbed Washburn this morning.
Seattle picks up Luke French, a starting pitcher who has already appeared in seven games for the Tigers this season. They also get Class A lefthander Mauricio Robles.
French will join the Mariners at the big league level right away.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik played this one very well. He kept a lot of people thinking he was still going for it in 2009 and unwilling to deal Washburn. In the end, the Tigers gave up a pretty good arm. French is a 6-foot-4 lefthander.
Robles has 40 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched in High A ball for Lakeland of the Florida State League thus far. Prior to that, he had 71 whiffs in 56 1/3 innings in the Midwest League. So, that’s a good start in his young pro career. At age 20, with an ability to miss bats, he might have helped push this deal to fruition. As I said, the M’s did well today.

In a release put out by the team, Zduriencik said: “We had an opportunity to acquire two starting left handed pitchers under the age of 23, including one with major league experience. As we continue to build the Mariners organization, it is crucial that we acquire depth and quality. This deal is another step in that process.”
Washburn beat the Tigers and French, 2-1, back on July 23 in Detroit. French lasted 5 1/3 innings in that one, giving up a run.
This is an impressive haul. The thing to remember is that French was already pitching in the rotation of a contending team at age 23. He had a 2.98 ERA in Class AAA Toledo this season, with 72 strikeouts in 81 innings against 20 walks.
And the Mariners landed him for a pitcher whose contract was up in two months in a season already over playoff-wise for the Mariners. And they got a second young arm as well, which helps offset those three arms given up in the Pittsburgh deal.
French has attributed his season-long success to an improved slider. He doesn’t throw very hard, but the slider has kept hitters off balance.
Some of you are fretting over this “lost” chance for the Mariners to extend Washburn beyond this season. That chance is still there. If he’s willing to take a bit of a market discount this off-season, the Mariners could still go after him as a free agent. But that was unlikely to happen this year. The two sides weren’t far enough along to hammer anything out that quickly.
This deal, in the context of where the team sits in the standings and the near hopelessness of its playoff quest, is what any responsible front office would be looking to do with a guy like Washburn. Seattle parlayed his better-than-expected numbers into something tangible. In the last two days, Zduriencik has added French and Ian Snell, two possible rotation fixtures for next season.
And the M’s now have a surplus of Class AAA/big league arms they can also look to deal this winter to shore up the team’s offense. As we mentioned the other day, the Snell/Wilson move, on its own, made little sense unless it was part of a two-pronged plan.
Now, the Mariners have another arm in French they can use right away and Snell can also be looked at as a possible call-up since Garrett Olson will not be making another start for the time being. It’s clear now that the Mariners big thinkers are looking to 2010 and beyond, no longer at 2009.
They won’t say it publically. Need to put 30,000 fans in the seats every night. But this was no longer about 2009. The new arms brought in will allow the team to finish the year wihout embarrassing itself. But there is no seven-inning guy like Washburn among the imports to give you a legit shot right now. Frankly, there is no legit shot in any event. That ship sailed roughly a week ago when the Mariners were hammered by Cleveland. Zduriencik’s move today leaves no room for argument on that front.



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