SEATTLE – On another steamy evening in the Great Northwest, Safeco Field became a pretty good place to fix an ailing starting rotation.
Then, right-hander Roy Halladay, who has 11 wins and a 2.62 ERA, was scheduled to start a Wednesday afternoon game against the Seattle Mariners.
Scouts from the New York Yankees, (need a fifth starter), Texas Rangers (Vicente Padilla(notes)/Kevin Millwood(notes) ailment/injury), Minnesota Twins (three starters with ERAs over five), Milwaukee Brewers (Jeff Suppan(notes) issues) and Philadelphia Phillies (general welfare, Halladay babysitting) were here to watch Washburn's start. Most were expected to stay through Wednesday's game as well.
"Nothing has changed," Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said Tuesday evening. "I will listen as I always have. Nothing imminent, either way."
Washburn allowed a run over seven innings, his fifth consecutive start in which he gave up one or no runs, and did not receive a decision.
“C'mon, dad,” he said. “Don't you think I would have called you if that happened? Besides, didn't you learn anything from last year?”
Washburn, a handy lefty, last July was rumored headed to the Yankees, and if not the Yankees then the Twins, who play only 90 minutes from Washburn's home. The Twins were going to put Washburn in the rotation and push Nick Blackburn(notes) into the bullpen. Of course that never happened (the Mariners backed out at the final moment, Twins starters staggered in September and the Twins finished a game behind the White Sox), and now Washburn is having his best season, not in Minneapolis but in Seattle … which brings us to yet another deadline (along with another Mariners general manager, another Mariners field manager, another Mariners plan, etc.).
Since then, Washburn has rediscovered a sinker that tails into lefties, the alternative to a four-seamer that naturally cuts into righties, shaved two runs off his ERA and become a rather attractive trade alternative to glamor arms Roy Halladay(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes).
Halladay on Monday afternoon here walked around with a binder under his arm, attended a mid-afternoon pitchers' meeting, plucked a piece of gum from a small bucket in the clubhouse and declined to address his status as The Only Person Anyone in Baseball is Talking About.
Asked if he'd heard anything from general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Halladay grinned and said, “Nope. Nothing.”
And that was that.
He's scheduled to pitch against the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon. Several clubs – including the Phillies, Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers and Brewers – could alter that plan by forking over the players to make the Blue Jays competitive (and financially stable) again. So far, they've resisted. And, indeed, at least some appear to be following the Angels' lead. Rather than be left hanging waiting on a Halladay deal that might never happen, the Angels have made Lee their first priority. The Dodgers are in on Lee and, unlike every conversation they've had regarding Halladay, would not have to surrender one of Chad Billingsley(notes), Clayton Kershaw(notes) or Matt Kemp(notes) to get it done. So that could happen.
While the official non-waiver trading deadline is 4 p.m. ET Friday, the official Halladay trading deadline is Tuesday evening, according to Ricciardi, though not a single GM in the game seems to believe he'll hold to that. Apparently we'll go at least into that final day, as Ricciardi had not approached Halladay about waiving his no-trade rights as of Monday evening.
The Blue Jays go from here to a weekend series in Oakland, interesting because the Philadelphia Phillies begin a four-game series in San Francisco on Thursday. Unintended but potentially convenient, the Phillies and Blue Jays will stay in the same downtown San Francisco hotel, meaning if Halladay is traded to the Phillies on Thursday or Friday he won't even have to change pillow cases.
A trade might be slightly more complicated for Washburn, who will start Tuesday against the Blue Jays unless first-year GM Jack Zduriencik finds a match. The Mariners hung around for a while in the AL West, but were hammered in a three-game sweep by the Indians at Safeco this weekend, then watched ace Felix Hernandez(notes) get knocked around by the Blue Jays on Monday night and, well, reality arrived with the humidity. Yeah, it's beginning to look like time, with free-agent-to-be Washburn a pretty attractive pitcher in a thin market.
It leaves Zduriencik with plenty to think about, not the least of which being that Washburn would love to have his contract extended by a couple years, and he'd love to stay in the Northwest. With any kind of run support Washburn would be gunning for 20 wins. He's a useful guy to have around if the Mariners are considering contending in the next two or three seasons.
“Because we had a bad weekend doesn't mean anything,” Zduriencik said. “At the end of the day we still have a positive thing going here.”
True enough, but if the right prospects come along or if the Mariners are at all wary of Scott Boras, who is Washburn's agent, they have more than 72 hours to choose a different course.
Meantime, Washburn has become quite the curiosity in the Mariners' clubhouse. Players walk by just to be sure he's still here. Mike Sweeney(notes) shouted over reporters' heads, “You still my teammate?”
Washburn smiled and waved.
“You guys got me all worried,” Sweeney said. “What's going on?”
That time of year, is all. Only the details change.
“A starting pitcher is supposed to get talked about every five days,” Washburn said, “not every day.”
In that, Roy Halladay almost certainly would agree.