A CBSSports.com report on Tuesday said that the Twins had made Washburn an offer and were awaiting his response this week. Washburn would not comment on the report, but he did confirm that the Twins have been in contact with him this winter.
The Twins entered the offseason searching for some veteran pitching help to stabilize their young rotation. They added one experienced arm to the group when Carl Pavano accepted the club's offer of arbitration last month. And with Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey also penciled into the rotation, there already is expected to be plenty of competition for the fifth starter's spot.
Twins general manager Bill Smith declined comment on the Washburn report, sticking to his policy of not speaking publicly on any of the team's possible negotiations. Smith did say, however, that the team isn't eliminating the possibility of adding another starting pitcher to its roster.
"We're definitely still looking," Smith said. "I think we saw last year you can never have too much pitching. We have to find a way to defend our AL Central division championship, and we also want to find a way to advance farther into the playoffs and get to the World Series. So you can't stop looking for any position. But pitching, you can never have too much of it."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned Washburn as a possible option for the club last month during the Winter Meetings. While some assumed that the Twins were finished upgrading their rotation after Pavano had accepted the club's offer of arbitration, Gardenhire said that it looked like the club was still searching for another starting pitcher.
"You can always look for pitching," Gardenhire said at the time. "A guy like Washburn has shown interest in wanting to pitch for us, and whether we're talking to him or not, he's shown interest. That's just more competition if we bring some more people in."
Currently the Twins don't have a left-hander penciled into their rotation, although Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing are all considered candidates to compete for the fifth starting spot. Washburn, 35, would provide the club with not just a lefty but a veteran who is considered to be a good guy in the clubhouse and is also a native of the Upper Midwest.
The left-hander makes his home in Webster, Wis., which is located just a couple hours northeast of the Twin Cities. He has said that the Brewers and Twins are two teams he's interested in due to their closeness to his home, but that won't be the deciding factor on where Washburn ends up.
"I want a chance to play for a team that has a chance to win," Washburn said. "Being close to home would be a positive. It's not something that I look at as a deal breaker in that I have to be close to home."
Washburn spent some time in the American League Central last season after the Tigers acquired him from the Mariners in July. At the time of the trade, Washburn was 8-6 for Seattle with a 2.64 ERA that ranked among the best in the American League. Washburn struggled with the Tigers, going 1-3, with a 7.33 ERA, as he was bothered by a knee injury. But he was able to get a firsthand look as the Twins overtook Detroit down the stretch, earning the AL Central title with a 6-5 victory in a one-game tiebreaker at the Metrodome.
"They have a lot of good pieces in place as far as talent on the team," Washburn said of the Twins. "They won the division last year, and basically the whole team from last year is coming back. I think they have a very good team already in place, and they'll be competing for that division again. That and being close to home and moving into a brand-new stadium -- all of those are positives with the Twins."
The Twins aren't the only team that has been linked to Washburn. The Mariners have been said to be interested in bringing back Washburn, who had pitched in Seattle since 2006 prior to being traded to Detroit in August. The Brewers, who are said to be seeking one more starting pitcher, could also be a fit.
Reports have stated that Washburn is thought to be seeking $2-3 million less than the $9.85 million he made last season. It's unclear what the Twins might be willing to spend on a pitcher as their payroll already is nearing a franchise-record $90 million, and they still are unsettled in the infield with holes at second base and third base.
As for Washburn, he seems content to wait and find the right deal -- whether it winds up being with the Twins or another ballclub.
"I'm not in a hurry," Washburn said. "Obviously I would like to get something done soon, but it's not something I'm going to rush into. Being at the point of my career that I'm in, I'm not in a hurry to do anything. I can afford to be patient."