After days of debate, the Seattle Mariners traded left-handed pitcher Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers for two young pitchers, giving the Tigers another veteran for their rotation as they try to hold on to the AL Central lead.
With Washburn's trade value at its highest, the Mariners sent the 34-year-old to the Tigers for left-hander Luke French and minor leaguer Mauricio Robles. The deal was announced just hours before the non-waiver trade deadline arrived.
"They were doing some great things here so it's sad to be leaving that, but at the same time I'm excited to be joining a team that's in first place and in a very good position," Washburn said in the Mariners' dugout before taking a flight to Cleveland, where he'll meet his new Tigers teammates Saturday. "I figured if I was going to get traded, it would be to (a contender)."
Washburn is 106-106 since making his big league debut for the Angels in 1998.
He has turned around his career this season with a new, split-fingered fastball. He was a combined 23-43 in his first three years with the Mariners entering 2009, a disappointing run he recently called "a tired act."
Washburn is 8-6 with a 2.64 ERA in 20 starts this season. His ERA is third-best in the AL, and he ranks second in holding opponents to a .223 batting average.
"He's pitching as well as anyone in the league," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He gives us another veteran in the rotation. He's pitched in big games."
In his last five starts, Washburn has allowed just three earned runs and 20 hits.
"We've got a pitcher who's had a hot hand," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he'll be a great addition for us."
The trade gives Detroit three of the top seven starters in ERA in the AL. In addition to Washburn, Edwin Jackson is second at 2.59 and Justin Verlander is seventh at 3.16.
Washburn is scheduled to start Tuesday night at Comerica Park against Baltimore. The Tigers went into the weekend with a two-game division lead over Minnesota.
"We had an opportunity to acquire two starting left-handed pitchers under the age of 23, including one with major league experience," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement.
Washburn left Rangers Ballpark on Thursday night thinking the odds were "50-50" he'd be traded. At 9 a.m. on Friday he got the call in his hotel room from Zduriencik that he was moving to Detroit, one of the teams he could be traded to according to his contract.
"I'm going to try to win another ring," he said.
Washburn is in the final months of a $37.5 million, four-year contract. He was Seattle's most attractive commodity: a veteran left-handed starter who has won a World Series, in 2002 with Anaheim.
The debate on moving Washburn went right to the deadline because the surprising Mariners stayed in the AL West and wild card races longer than expected. But after losing 7-1 on Thursday night in Texas, the Mariners stood eight games back of the Angels in the division and 6 1/2 behind Boston in the wild-card race, and Zduriencik this week acknowledged "we're a club that's a little bit on the outside, looking in."
After a bumpy first three years in Seattle, this season was so positive for Washburn that he'd be open to re-signing with the Mariners when he becomes a free agent during the offseason.
"It's not out of the question," Washburn said. "It's one of the places I'd like to play. Seattle will be considered by me because of how much I enjoyed it. It's the best stadium in baseball, the fans are great."
Washburn's former Mariners teammates had mixed feelings about the trade. They were losing their top lefty starter, but they were happy that Washburn would be joining a division leader.
"His name bounced around, but we didn't know whether anything was solid," Mariners infielder Chris Shelton said. "You can't be upset about anything. Obviously if he stayed he would have been a big help but we can't focus on that anymore."
The 23-year-old French has pitched for both Detroit and Triple-A Toledo this season. He is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts for the Tigers. He limited Seattle to a pair of earned runs in 5 1-3 innings on July 23 in Detroit.
At Toledo, French was 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 13 starts.
Robles, 20, started the season at West Michigan in the Midwest League. He was later promoted to Single-A Lakeland in the Florida State League in June and in his seven starts at Lakeland, Robles is 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA. He will be assigned to Class A High Desert.