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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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August 14, 2008 3:26 PM

Ibanez, Washburn staying put

Posted by Geoff Baker

UPDATE (4:51 p.m.): So apparently, the Twins did put in claims on both Ibanez and Washburn, but only got to negotiate on Washburn because they had a better record than the Tigers -- who also claimed Ibanez. The Twins move was not to "block" a Washburn claim by the White Sox. The Twins are in dire need on an 8th inning guy, sort of like the M's last season. What they want to do is pick up another starter and move one of their current starters into the bullpen. They don't view Washburn as a fifth starter the way some of you posting on this blog do. They figured he's better than some of that they already have in the rotation.

Apparently, the M's wanted a player off the Twins' 40-man roster. Not sure who, but I'm told it was one of their many starting pitchers. That's where the deal fell apart. This is interesting because it suggests there would be room for continued negotiation. I mean, there's nothing stopping the two sides from continuing their talks, agreeing on something and then the M's putting Washburn through waivers again, the Twins claiming him (since they could very well be the lowest ranked claimant again) and then sending Seattle the player agreed upon. Since this isn't a "block" but more of a need situation by Minnesota, I don't see their needs changing in the next few days. The only reason this had to end now was the 48-hour negotiation window.

And if someone else swoops in and claims Washburn ahead of the Twins, then the M's still save the salary. Anyhow, that scenario makes as much sense to me as any other we've discussed so far. What do you think?

To answer a question, if the M's put Washburn on waivers and nobody claims him in 48 hours, then he will have "cleared" and be eligible to be traded without the waiver process for the remainder of the season.

And no, I highly doubt Washburn would invoke his no-trade clause. Minneapolis is just a puddle-jumper flight from his home in Wisconsin. He'd go there in a heartbeat.

3:26 p.m.: I've been told that it was indeed the Twins putting in a waiver claim on Jarrod Washburn, as was reported a short while ago by Jon Heyman over at Sports Illustrated's online site. Raul Ibanez was claimed by a bunch of teams, the Tigers having first crack at him. Still no word on who the M's were looking for from the Twins.

As we discussed earlier, the likelihood of an Ibanez deal getting done was slim.

In Washburn's case, once again, if the goal is to unload some money, that can still be done this month. Both players have now been pulled off waivers by the Mariners. But they can be put back on them at any time.

That won't happen with Ibanez. He's staying here for the rest of the year.

When a player is put on waivers a second time, he is automatically lost if claimed. You can't pull him back again. So, the M's won't risk losing Ibanez that way. But they could just throw Washburn back out there and hope he gets claimed.

There is still a chance that could happen, depending on pitching needs. Carrying Washburn into the off-season is a risk. Sure, the market could open up. But there will also be more pitchers on that open market. And the middle-of-the-pack lefty making $10.3 million won't look like such a great deal. Doubtful the M's would get anything significant back that they haven't already been offered at this time of year.

Maybe they have some concerns about their ability to get through the rest of this season without Washburn and the quality innings he's tossed of late? If so, you could hold on to him a while longer, get another start or two out of him and then throw him out on waivers to see if anyone bites.

But we're also now getting into the final six weeks of the season. Not a whole lot of time left for him to make an impact. I know the Mariners want value for the pitcher, but I'm not sure what they're doing here. The market has spoken. They aren't going to get his salary plus a prospect.

Frankly, this team has to decide whether it's going to contend or rebuild next year. If you're rebuilding, Washburn makes little sense as part of that plan. This is where not having a full-time GM could potentially hurt the Mariners. The new GM has to make that call. Not Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln. The new GM will be the one to say if this is a rebuild or a "go for it" scenario. There's no one around now to do that.

If there was, they would very likely opt to rebuild. And Washburn would be out of here.

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August 14, 2008 12:42 PM

Ibanez likely to stay

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just got off the plane from Anaheim and can see that Raul Ibanez and Jarrod Washburn are still part of the Mariners.

My hunch when I woke up this morning was that Ibanez was going to remain with the team and that Washburn will likely be traded. It just makes sense to me. You already have Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva and Ryan Rowland-Smith in the rotation with Ryan Feierabend almost certainly joining it by Sunday and then Brandon Morrow not too long after that.

So, if you want to get a real look at all the youngsters over the final six weeks of the season, trading Washburn frees up room to do just that. It also enables you to offload considerable money for this year and next. Yes, Washburn has been this team's second best -- some may argue best -- starter the past two months. His ERA is right up there with Hernandez's over that period and so are his innings totals.

But again, what does that matter in 2008? And what will it matter in 2009? Does anyone truly think this team can contend next year? The Mariners did not lose out on much by waiting until after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to get to this point. They were not going to get anything decent prospects-wise from the Yankees and could afford to wait a couple of weeks to see whether more interest could be drummed up for Washburn's services. Right now, this is probably the best they will do and unloading Washburn now still gets the team that money-savings the Yankees were offering in late-July.

The savings is substantial and I think the team, in the end, will do the right thing and stop holding out for prospects other clubs don't seem willing to give up.

In the case of Ibanez, the Mariners are right to hold out for prospects, since his departure as a free agent next winter would net the club two compensatory draft picks. I am still not certain the club made the right move in not dealing Ibanez before the July 31 trade deadline. The Mariners say other clubs were not offering player packages that were good enough. That they consisted of borderline prospects (some on 40-man rosters) without a whole lot of major league upside.

Thing is, there are no guarantees those compensatory picks will ever make it to the major leagues either. And if they do, it likely won't be for another four or five years from right this minute. Don't forget, those picks won't even come until next June. So, there is value to picking up players who are near to being major league ready right now.

But this is the route the Mariners have chosen with Ibanez. They will have to live with the consequences. Doing a deal with him now will not be easy. Especially since teams can simply put in a waiver claim to "block" Ibanez from going to a rival club. Teams with the worst record on the claims list get first dibs on the player. If their goal is merely to "block" a deal that would send Ibanez to another team, they can simply refuse to negotiate anything with the Mariners other than offering to take on Ibanez's salary.

As we've mentioned, that is a non-starter and would result in the Mariners pulling Ibanez off waivers and simply taking their draft picks next winter. So, like I said, I will be very surprised not to see Ibanez still here by the end of this 48-hour negotiation window.

By the same token, I will also be somewhat surprised if Washburn makes his next start for the Mariners in Chicago. I expect to see him wearing another uniform by then. If not, the Mariners, as usual, will have plenty to answer for. Not to mention a hefty bill staring them in the face.

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