Jarrod Washburn, Jeremy Sowers and the search for a LH starter

I know I just wrote a piece on Jarrod Washburn two days ago but the rumors aren’t dying off and subsequently neither is my irritation with the fact the Royals are even considering signing the veteran lefty.  Along those lines, Bob Dutton had the following in his Wednesday evening article:

The Royals pursued free-agent lefty Jarrod Washburn in the off-season, but club officials are dismissing a recent SI.com report suggesting renewed interest.

“Just somebody throwing our name out there,” general manager Dayton Moore said.

Say what you will about reporters, and bloggers for that matter, looking for a story but there is too smoke surrounding this thing to just be “someone throwing a name out there.”  Even on Wednesday Dayton’s comments made me laugh.  After all, we know Dayton and Trey continue to cling to the belief that they have to have a lefty in their rotation so this makes complete sense just on that very basic level.  Personally, I’m a believer of putting your best five starters in the rotation regardless of which hand they happen to use to throw a baseball, but the Royals clearly feel differently.  They proved that last season when their obsession drove them to give Horacio Ramirez* a spot in the rotation.  As we all know that spot was completely unearned.  In fact, Ho-Ram did everything in his power during spring training to pitch his way off the staff.  He failed, he started one game, then he left the rotation.

*No, I’m not going to let it go.  Yes, I will keep bringing this up.  My IRF (Inner Royals Fan) was forever scarred by the Ho-Ram debacle.

We also experienced Dayton’s plan last season when he added an aging, veteran pitcher who was clearly in decline.  Last year it was Sidney Ponson.  This year it could be Jarrod Washburn.  Considering he is left-handed and is an aging veteran in decline it makes too much sense to not have at least of sliver of truth.  There is also the fact that players simply don’t get linked to the Royals without a credible source involved.  If someone was going to “throw out” a random and unsubstantiated rumor about a team’s interest in Jarrod Washburn, the Kansas City Royals would be at the bottom of the list when picking a team for said rumor.  That just seems like basic reasoning to me.

Adding fuel to the fire on Wednesday was the report that the Mariners made an offer to Jarrod believed to be less than what they guaranteed Erik Bedard, and that Washburn turned it down.  He wants to pitch in Seattle so for him to turn down such an offer, even if he felt it was a lowball offer would suggest that another team was in the mix for his services.  He’s probably regretting that he turned down the $5 million he was reportedly offered by the Twins and as a result, somewhere Carl Pavano is laughing.

Right around lunch time today, John Heyman wrote the following on SI.com:

The Mariners, who are concerned about their starting pitching depth, are trying to bring back Jarrod Washburn for a deal that’s lower than the one they gave Erik Bedard, who got a $1.75 million guarantee and $7.5 million ceiling after an injury-racked season. Perhaps they’re counting on the late date to help them lure Washburn back on a cheap deal, but so far Washburn doesn’t seem to be anxious to become a great late bargain. The Royals are believed to be offering significantly more money. But it’s thought that Washburn would prefer a return to Seattle, where he thrived last year. That’s if the dollars can be worked out.

This evening Bob Dutton provided this:

Reports persist of the Royals’ interest in free-agent pitcher Jarrod Washburn without any apparent substantiation from club officials. Further, one top club official says the Royals are $1.5 million over budget for their major-league payroll.

I really enjoy the phrase “without any apparent substantiation.”  That tells me that Dutton is hearing the same thing as Heyman but that the rumor can’t be confirmed.  It’s not surprising that it can’t be substantiated by club officials.  Revealing that kind of information tends to get one in hot water, and as sensitive as Dayton Moore has been at times, I wouldn’t want to be that guy leaking info and confirming rumors.  The amount of smoke here cannot be ignored.  In the past, the team being over budget may have played a legitimate role in the discussion.  Now I think this point is irrelevant.  The Royals are heading into year number two of a renovated stadium while ownership, in recent years has shown a willingness to invest in players that Dayton sees as good value.  Recently, most of that spending has been done to restock the minor league system, and we can argue about Dayton’s concept of good value till we are blue in the face, but when it comes down to it, the simple fact remains that the organization went over it’s budget to add Juan Cruz at the end of February last season.

I have no doubt in my mind that Trey wants Jarrod Washburn.  I have no doubt in my mind that he’s gotten him GM on board with the idea, if Dayton needed any convincing that is.  Further, I have no doubt in my mind that Moore can get approval from David and Dan Glass to bump up the 2010 payroll just to add Jarrod Washburn.

For me, the question still remains, why?  Why Washburn and why now?

While those questions were bouncing around in my head the last couple of days, the Cleveland Indians placed 26-year old LHP-Jeremy Sowers on waivers on Wednesday.  Sowers, the Tribe’s 1st round pick in the 2004 draft, reached the majors in 2006 and had an impressive rookie campaign.  That season he started 14 games, pitched 88.1 innings, had a wonderful 1.19 WHIP and finished with an ERA+ of 126.  It’s been downhill ever since thanks to an increase in his H/9 and BB/9.  That rookie season 1.19 WHIP seems like a distant memory compared to the 1.56, 1.49, and 1.51 marks he has turned in the last three seasons.  With the Washburn rumors circling I believed there was a reasonable chance the Royals would put in a claim on Sowers.  He’s younger, cheaper, and I believe that with the right pitching coach working with him could become a viable back of the rotation guy.  The Royals passed on Jeremy, as did every other team, and less than four hours after it was reported that he was placed on waivers, he had cleared and was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus.

I’m not saying that the Royals should have claimed Sowers, and Ed Carroll of our Cleveland Indians site Deep Left Field makes a valid point about the young lefty.

It was time to cut ties with Sowers, who was quite simply a huge disappointment of a 1st round pick. Space was needed on the 40-man, Sowers was hurt and out of options, it just all added up to bad news for Sowers. If he can’t make it with the Indians, I’m curious to see who WOULD take a chance on Sowers.

It is a valid point.  The Indians rotation looks pretty terrible, and if Jeremy couldn’t claim a spot over there could he really do so for the Royals or any other team?  I know the stats suggest teams should run in the other direction, and all 29 other teams listened.  Sowers has been a disappointment in Cleveland, but I’m a big believer in the impact that a change of scenery can have on a player.  Speaking of the 40-man roster, thanks to Edgar Osuna making his way down to Double-A, the Royals just happen to have an open spot to fill.

Again I’m not saying that the Royals should have claimed Sowers, but I think claiming a soon-to-be 27-year old lefty with a chance to get better would be a much smarter direction than overpaying for a very over-the-hill 35-year old lefty.  We know the Mariners offered Washburn less than $1.75 million and if the rumors are to be believed, we know that the Royals offered significantly more.  That brings up the question will Jarrod Washburn be worth “significantly” more than Jeremy Sowers in 2010?  In my book that answer is definitively no regardless of what the specifics behind “significantly more” turn out to be.

What upsets me more than anything about all of this is that the Royals had their chance to add a legitimate left-handed starting pitcher.  On February 1st, the Oakland Athletics designated 26-year old LHP-Dana Eveland for assignment.  Dayton Moore, if he was interested at all, wasn’t aggressive enough.  Five days later, Eveland was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on February 6th for cash or a player to be named later.

It’s not always the moves that are made that wind up being the mistakes.  Sometimes it’s the moves that aren’t made.  Sometimes the moves that are made are designed to correct for a move that wasn’t made.  If we wind up with Jarrod Washburn for 2010 at a cost of several million dollars, the failure to acquire Dana Eveland will double in magnitude.

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Just a programming note that tomorrow is draft night for my fantasy baseball league and my parents will be driving down from Minnesota to see their grandkids and celebrate Easter with us.  It is entirely possible that I won’t get a post up tomorrow and if I do, there is a good chance it will be related to fantasy baseball and I may be reporting live as I attempt to build upon my core of five players.

(Wally Fish is the lead writer for Kings of Kauffman and Call to the Pen.  He is also FanSided’s MLB Director.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Cleveland Indians Dana Eveland Jarrod Washburn Jeremy Sowers Kansas City Royals KC MLB Royals Seattle Mariners

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