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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 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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