Yesterday evening, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported that the Washington Nationals planned to option starting pitcher John Lannan to Triple-A. Lannan will receive $5 million this season no matter where he’s pitching; leading many to believe the left-hander will eventually be traded.
Kilgore added that, with Lannan’s demotion, the Nationals are expected to name Ross Detwiler as their fifth starter.
Earlier this offseason, after the Nationals had acquired starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, it was clear that they would be facing a decision when it came to who would occupy the final spot in their rotation. Chien-Ming Wang and his hamstring injury seemed to make this decision for the Nationals, as manager Davey Johnson seemingly handed the job to Lannan.
However, it appears the Nationals have decided to go with Detwiler over Lannan. Detwiler is a year younger and is said to have more upside than Lannan. The former first round pick’s stuff is described as raw, and Detwiler’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s.
Still, it’s hard to believe the Nationals would option Lannan, who’s started on Opening Day for the Nationals twice. The 27-year-old has tallied at least 31 starts and 182 innings pitched over three of the past four seasons. Lannan sports a solid career ERA of an even 4.00, but his WHIP (1.423) and SO/9 (4.7) over that span are more pedestrian.
Rather than option him, most around the game expected the Nationals to trade Lannan. Last night MLB.com’s Bill Ladson tweeted that Washington was indeed shopping Lannan, but opposing teams felt the Nationals were asking too much for him.
It would make sense for a team to overvalue a dependable starter that’s been one of the club’s best over the last few years. It would also make sense for other teams to look at Lannan’s peripherals and not see him as a pitcher that’s worth trading key players for.
No matter what happens with Lannan, Nationals fans should respect that the club clearly went with the pitcher they believe gives them the best chance to win, not the one who is owed the most or has the best track record. You also have to feel bad for Lannan, who’s shown he’s worthy of a rotation spot at the major league level.
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