VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has gotten several calls on left-handed starter John Lannan but Rizzo said Wednesday he has not made any calls to other teams peddling the 27-year-old.
“I am not actively shopping him,” Rizzo said. “I haven’t actively shopped him all winter.”
If things remain the way they are currently with the Nationals’ pitching staff, it appears that Lannan will be the odd man out in a roster crunch as Opening Day nears. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang has performed well this spring and Nationals coaches are impressed with his arm strength — noting a significant improvement even from the end of last season when Wang came back to baseball after two years rehabbing his shoulder.
The Nationals know what they have in Lannan, who has performed adequately in his first two starts of the spring as well. But as a guy who finished last season with a 10-13 record and 3.70 ERA in 184 2/3 innings, he also has more leeway within both his contract and his ability than Wang does.
Wang’s injury history basically precludes him from pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever and he does not have a minor league option remaining. Lannan, of course, does. He will make $5 million this season and sending him down would not only alter his service time and possibly delay his free agency but he’d be one of the highest-paid minor leaguers in all of baseball.
It would also keep him in the organization and would keep him at the ready for when the Nationals inevitably need him again at the major league level.
At this point, the Nationals feel no pressure to move him.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of interest,” Rizzo said. “I haven’t made any calls. I’ve fielded several calls. In the baseball annals, the word gets out and people do the math and they see we have too many starters for too many spots. But, again, this is way too early to say that we have too much starting pitching.”
The Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers have been among a number of teams rumored to be monitoring Lannan this spring as they sort out the back end of their own rotations but the Nationals are not prepared to give Lannan away for little return. Because they see little necessity to move him immediately, the Nationals have the luxury of allowing the market to come to them and for the offers to increase in substance.
Lannan is still under team control through the 2014 season and he’s proven to be not only resilient mentally (the Nationals demoted him to Double-A in 2010 and he earned his way back to the major leagues) but also physically. In the last four seasons, Lannan has averaged 179 innings pitched with a 4.00 ERA.
That’s not something the Nationals are willing to part with easily — especially with neither Wang, who is always going to be an injury concern, or Edwin Jackson guaranteed to be around after the 2012 season and with Stephen Strasburg on an innings limit this year.