WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 25: John Lannan #31 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on August 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
While 27-year-old left-hander John Lannan's performance on the mound improved in his third start of the year for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs this past Wednesday, the Washington Nationals' '05 11th Round pick's prospects of getting traded have not according to several recent reports. The fifth-year pro emailed reporters to reveal that he'd requested a trade after the Nats' optioned Lannan to their top minor league affiliate at the end of Spring Training, opting to put 26-year-old '07 1st Round pick Ross Detwiler in the rotation a week after Nationals' manager Davey Johnson had said Lannan would be one of his five starters at the start of the 2012 campaign.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who originally wrote that the Nats were actively shopping the left-hander on the day Washington signed RHP Edwin Jackson and won its arbitration case with Lannan, who was "awarded" a $5M dollar salary for 2012, reported in his latest Full Count video last week that the Nationals, "... continued to look for a taker for Lannan," but the problem was not only his $5M salary for the upcoming season, according to the bow-tied FOXSports.com reporter. A rival executive told Mr. Rosenthal that, "Any team that gets Lannan might prefer to let him go next offseason rather than offer him arbitration. He is indeed a non-tender candidate, and that only diminishes his trade value further."
In an article entitled, "Lannan not drawing much trade interest", earlier this week, MLB.com's Bill Ladson too wrote that though the team was looking for a deal, Lannan's poor performance thus far was affecting his value, noting that a "baseball source" told him, "... it is nearly impossible to trade him," and, "It hasn't helped that Lannan is off to a slow start with Triple-A Syracuse." Interested teams, the MLB.com writer reported, are reluctant to take on his salary because, "... a lot of teams consider Lannan no more than a fifth starter," and, ".. would rather use a low-paid Minor Leaguer for the fifth spot before dealing with Lannan's money."
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, in the "Ready to Rumble" section of his latest column, wrote this morning that the Nationals were already having a hard time finding a deal for Lannan, and, "Lannan's work in Triple-A appears to have blown up any trade value he might have had." An unnamed executive the ESPN.com writer speaks to tells him that the Nationals are still looking for the right deal, and, "Obviously, they still really want to move him. But his performance in spring training and at Syracuse hasn't exactly helped the cause."
In a recent interview, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo didn't seem too concerned about Lannan's first two starts at Triple-A since 2007. In two starts against the Yankees and Phillies' top affiliates, Lannan allowed a combined 15 hits and 13 runs, nine earned in just 6.0 IP, walking five and striking out four in two losses for the Syracuse Chiefs. In the first start, Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kusher and Danny Rouhier earlier this week on the Mike Rizzo Show, "[Lannan] just mentally wasn't into the start. He wasn't prepared to pitch and got smacked around pretty good."
"I had a long talk with his manager and his pitching coach after that," Rizzo continued, "said that wouldn't happen again [and] he went out in his second start and our farm director was there for that second start and he pitched much much better than the statistical line dictated. There [were] about three balls hit relatively hard and beyond that they made two or three errors behind him, so the line looked ugly, but the performance was much better than the line. We think that he's going to ratchet it up and pitch well and he'll be a guy that will help us in the big leagues some time this season."
Lannan gave up just one run on six hits in 6.0 IP in his third Triple-A start this past Wednesday, walking one and striking out two in a game the Chiefs lost to the Boston Red Sox' top affiliate. Unfortunately for the lefty, even after Edwin Jackson's tough start last night in the series finale with Houston, the Nationals' starters still have the lowest combined team ERA (2.08 to the Phillies' 2.32), the most K's (78 to the Phillies' 77) and the third-lowest total walks (18 in 86.2 IP to the Pirates' 17 and the Phillies and Giants' 16) in the National League 14 games and 86.1 IP into the 2012 campaign. The Nats' starters are pitching so well, in fact, that they're starting to make what once seemed like wild claims on the part of their manager seem right as ESPN.com's Mr. Stark noted in today's column.
69-year-old Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters this Spring that he thought his top three (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann), "... were just as good "stuff-wise" as the Phillies' big three of Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee/Cole Hamels." A scout the ESPN.com writer speaks to for the article tells him that, "'When [Johnson] first said it, I thought he had rocks in his head. Now I'm not so sure he wasn't right.'" Mr. Stark provides the numbers:
Nationals' top three: 57 2/3 IP, 37 H, 10 ER, 50 K, 1.56 ERA
Phillies' top three: 58 1/3 IP, 42 H, 13 ER, 51 K, 2.01 ERA
The Nats' four and five starters haven't been bad either. Edwin Jackson threw a complete game two-hitter last week against the Cincinnati Reds before the Astros got to him early last night, and Ross Detwiler recovered from a rough first inning against the Reds to have a strong outing in his second start of the year this past Sunday. Good news for the Nats, not so much from Lannan, whose exile in Syracuse will continue for now.