MLB Winter Meetings: John Lannan drawing interest; Nats looking for starting depth

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nationals were fairly quiet on the third day of the winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. So quiet, in fact, that several of their brass departed and headed home. Owner Mark Lerner, general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson all left, satisfied that their to-do list had shortened sufficiently.

A few extra notes from the day…

– Former Nationals left-hander John Lannan, who was non-tendered on Friday night, has only been a free agent for a few days but he’s already drawn significant preliminary interest from several teams.

Eleven teams have expressed interest in Lannan for potential major league jobs, a source said, giving the left-hander an opportunity to get back into a big league rotation.

Lannan was an integral member of the Nationals’ pitching staff for several years — including as an Opening Day starter on two occasions — before he spent the majority of the 2012 season in Triple-A as the Nationals overflowed with starting pitchers. Lannan had an option remaining on his contract and the Nationals chose to exercise it on the eve of the season, preferring to go with a rotation full of hard throwers that proved to be one of the best in the major leagues.

Lannan was still extremely valuable for the nationals in 2012, pitching in several important games and taking Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the rotation in September. But he had also previously proven that he could certainly be a regular in a major league rotation and it appears there are several teams that are interested in returning him to that status. Lannan made $5 million in arbitration last year.

Ultimately the Nationals were disinclined to tender him a contract and risk paying him at least $4 million more in 2013 without a defined role for him. It is unclear what his market will be financially in free agency but it appears the parting of ways has been a positive for both sides thus far. 

The Nationals agreed to terms on a one-year, $13 million deal with Dan Haren on Tuesday, filling their No. 5 starter spot with a veteran right-hander. They also plan to stretch out Christian Garcia and Zach Duke in spring training and consider Ryan Perry and Yunesky Maya depth at the Triple-A level. They remain interested in adding to that depth, however.

– Speaking of that search, Johnson addressed exactly that on Wednesday.

“We’re probably looking more to pick up some guys for the minor leagues and start in Triple-A,” Johnson said. “Maybe some young starters, maybe some veteran types, a la, Zach Duke (in 2012).”

Johnson pointed out that Rizzo has found success with a number of players who weren’t given much opportunity elsewhere.

Last year he signed Duke after he’d been released by the Astros in spring training and the Nationals were the only team to call. Duke pitched very well in Triple-A, reunited with Spin Williams, his pitching coach from Pittsburgh and now the Nationals’ pitching coordinator, and well enough in a September call-up to earn a major league deal with the team for next season.

Michael Gonzalez was another one that Johnson pointed out, noting the left-hander agreed to a minor league deal with the Nationals in May. He was promoted in June and remained a valuable contributor throughout the rest of the season. 

With the defense the Nationals have assembled, Johnson said, it makes Washington all the more attractive for pitchers.

“A lot of (Rizzo’s), I don’t want to call them reclamation projects, but guys like Gonzalez, he’s very good at picking out those kind of guys.

“I think with what we’ve got going on in Washington now I think those guys see there is an opportunity and when free agents see a guy like Gonzalez came in, got called up. Same with Duke. They sign with us. They look at my infield, they see I’ve got a good infield, good catching, and now really good outfield defense. It’s a pretty good place to play.”

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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