Teams pursuing Washburn are making a mistake

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Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Twins, Brewers, Mariners, and Rangers are in the mix to sign free agent Jarrod Washburn. Meanwhile, the Tigers declined an arbitration offer and apparently have no interest in re-signing Washburn despite trading two prospects to get him at midseason.
Washburn went 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in eight starts following the trade, allowing 35 runs in 43 innings before missing the final three weeks with a knee injury that required offseason surgery, so it’s understandable that Detroit wants nothing to do with him. Other teams would be smart to follow suit, although at least in the Mariners’ case they know what they’d be getting in Washburn.
An extreme fly-ball pitcher who took advantage of Seattle’s power-deflating ballpark and historically great outfield defense to post a 2.64 ERA through 20 starts this year, his struggles in Detroit can perhaps be blamed on the knee problems. Regardless of that he’s a soft-tossing 35-year-old with mediocre control and a horrible strikeout rate who hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2003.

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching
measures how well a pitcher performed with luck and defense removed from the equation, and since that last 200-inning season Washburn has posted the following xFIP totals: 5.06, 5.01, 5.35, 5.30, 5.11, 4.97. Not surprisingly xFIP doesn’t think very much of extreme fly-ball pitchers who lack pinpoint control and don’t miss any bats.
Once you add in his age, knee surgery, and likely multi-year contract demands Washburn is the epitome of a bad free-agent target. He’s a back-of-the-rotation starter who has gotten by on an awful lot of smoke and mirrors, and if Washburn has any chance to be worth a multi-year commitment he needs to land with a team that has a pitcher-friendly ballpark and outfielders who can chase down his mistakes.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.