So the Nats signed Edwin Jackson and for the first time in his career Jackson's new team's fanbase resisted the urge to fall in love with his average fastball speed of 94.5 MPH and his 2010 no-hitter. While Jackson still holds a tremendous amount of upside, he seems to have settled in to his role as a solid #3 or above average #4 starter who will eat innings like Cookie Monster at a Girl Scout Jamboree. Still, I think most Nats fans, along with people in baseball, view his signing as a boon for Mike Rizzo and the Nats. The question it now raises is what to do with John Lannan?
Depending on who you talk to Lannan is either the model of consistency, a gritty left-hander who guile's his way to victory and the second-coming of Kurt Rueter or he's a bum with a batting practice fastball who has lucked his way in to a respectable ERA, as reflected in his career FIP of 4.61. Most likely the answer lies somewhere in between, as Lannan is mostly consistent, but betting on him to continue to out-pace his FIP a la Matt Cain probably won't happen either.
Still, Lannan is a valuable commodity in a league where John Garland was once again signed to eat an inning or 200 for the Indians, Barry Zito continues to make the Opening Day roster and--to steal a term from Mattew Berry--Big Fat Bartolo Colon signed sooner than Edwin Jackson. It remains to be seen though, what a commodity such as John Lannan is valued at however, would someone simply agree to eat his salary and return an org. player or two or would the Nats be able to not only dump his salary, but get a valuable commodity back in return?
Without being allowed in on GM discussions it's tough to say, surely there are those GM's that flat refuse to look at these new fangled statistics such as OBP and WHIP (Hello, Brian Sabean!) let alone factor in things such as FIP or xFIP, in which case Lannan's value may never be higher. Considering that Lannan put up a 3.70 ERA last year and won ten games those who believe that Saber-metrics are the devil's work and are built on black magic might be willing to part with a "B" prospect or two and take on the salary.
Consequently, if you think Lannan had the best year he's going to have last year, it might seem like now is the time to trade him, especially when you consider the Nats will open camp with Strasburg, Zimmermann, CMW, Jackson, Gonzales, Detwiler, Gorzellany and Lannan. However, look a little deeper and you'll notice a trend here. Strasburg is coming off TJ surgery and will have an innings limit of 170 or so, Zimmermann is only a couple of years removed from TJ, Detwiler has great stuff but struggles to throw said great stuff over the plate at times, while Gorzellany throws lots of pitches over the plate, but far too many are hit far too far, far too often. Finally, Ching Ming Wang's arm is currently attached to his body using an intricate system involving two cases of Hubba Bubba, two rolls of duct tape and a paper clip. The only sure things in Nats rotation are Gonzales and Jackson, which leaves three more spots in the rotation for an organization who traded their AAA spot-starters to the A's for Gonzales.
While I'm a big fan of pitching depth, mainly because you can't have too much pitching, if the Nats are able to acquire a "B" prospect for Lannan, Rizzo should pull the trigger. I understand the need for organizational depth and the fact that a lot of these guys are big time injury concerns, but I just don't think Lannan is that much better than either Gorzellany or Detwiler and Detwiler holds a lot more upside.
Lannan posted a 3.70 ERA last year, but it came along with a 4.28 FIP, while Gorzellany is just a year removed from posting a 3.92 FIP while playing in the hitter friendly Wrigley Field. They're both left handed and can both throw a baseball utilizing their left hand, but Gorzellany has already proven he can be effective out of the pen, while Lannan is an unknown. Finally--and most importantly--Lannan undoubtedly has more trade value at this point than Gorzellany.
As for Detwiler, it's tough to gauge from his stats, but in watching him he has a lot of life on his stuff and gets good late break on his fastball, if he can hit his spots consistently he can be a middle to front of the rotation starter, if not he still projects as a decent LOOGY and has more cost controlled years left than Lannan.
As long as Rizzo can get a prospect or two of value he should deal Lannan, if not, stash him in AAA--yes it will undoubtedly hurt his feelings--and wait for a starter to get hurt, whether it be a Nats starter or someone else's.
Talk amongst yourselves and feel free to disagree as vehemently and with as much vitriol as you like.