So, remember the John Lannan trade rumors which preceded the announcement that the Washington Nationals had signed 28-year-old right-hander Edwin Jackson? FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi wrote last week, in an article entitled, "Nats sign Jackson, shopping Lannan", that sources were saying, "Washington was aggressively shopping left-hander John Lannan," before they signed Jackson to what is reportedly a 1-year/$11M dollar deal. MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote on Twitter (@washingnats) that he too had heard, "The #Nats are hoping to trade LHP John Lannan for a position player, maybe a center fielder."
When D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters after confirming that EJax had joined the Nats, he stated clearly that the Nationals were, "... certainly always open to [making] a deal that makes sense for us, and if it can improve the ballclub, but we did not acquire Edwin Jackson to trade another starting pitcher." The Nats' general manager said they intended to use Lannan as they have in each of the last five seasons since the now-27-year-old left-hander, selected out of Siena College in the 11th Round of the '05 Draft, made his MLB debut. "We feel that he's a major league pitcher," Rizzo reiterated, "He's major league caliber and he's major league-ready to help a contending team and we feel that he's a solid major league starting pitcher and that's what we're going to use him as."
Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo too wrote this morning in his weekly "Sunday Baseball Notes" column that the 6'4'', 215lb Lannan, who had a career low-3.70 ERA in 2011 to go along with a 4.28 FIP, 76 walks (3.70 BB/9) and 106 K's (5.17 K/9) in 33 starts and 184.2 IP, "... is a terrific option as an end-of-the rotation starter now that Washington has signed Edwin Jackson," but:
"There is a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal him to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos, with Mike Trout on the way to play that position in Anaheim."
This isn't the first time the Boston Globe writer has written about the Nats' interest in Bourjos. Mr. Cafardo notes, as the Nationals have all winter, that if they can't find a center fielder Jayson Werth could always slide over from right. "We do feel that we have in-house candidates right now that can fill that position very effectively," the Nats' GM told reporters in late December, "Jayson Werth could move to center field and then we would open up a bigger pool of candidates for a corner outfield position." Asked recently, however, if a move to acquire an outfield bat still seemed likely this late in the winter/close to Spring Training, Rizzo said, "We're not satisfied with not getting the long-term solution that we had [wanted], but we're satisfied with the in-house candidates and we feel that we're going to field the right kind of team going into Spring Training."
And as for finding a corner outfielder if Werth shifted to center, the general manager reminded everyone, "... we do have a power left-handed bat by the name of Bryce Harper in the wings, waiting to be fully-developed and help us on the big league level." Though the Boston Globe's Mr. Cafardo says the Red Sox don't have the center fielder the Nationals are looking for, "... especially with Ryan Kalish unable to play until June," the source he speaks to in the article tells him, "It doesn't have to be a center fielder,’":
"'They don’t have to get a center fielder in that deal as long as they get a center fielder some other way. The Red Sox make a lot of sense.’’
Does acquiring a corner outfielder make sense for the Nationals? Mr. Cafardo says he's heard the same things MLB.com's Bill Ladson's sources have about the Nats' interest in international free agent Yoenis Cespedes, that he's, "not in their plans" and he adds that, "they have cooled on B.J. Upton." Does the fact that the Nationals are no longer mentioned with Cespedes make it seem more likely they are interested at this point? #runsilent? It might depend on where Bryce Harper's likely to start the 2012 campaign. The Boston Globe baseball writer comments on all the chatter about the 19-year-old outfielder breaking camp with the Nationals in today's column as well. With all the moves Washington's made this winter, and with all the young talent present in the organization, Mr. Cafardo writes that, "The most fascinating player will be Harper,":
"General manager Mike Rizzo has taken a conservative approach, not wanting to overwhelm Harper, but there is clamoring for Harper to start his big league career now. There are mixed opinions within the organization, but manager Davey Johnson is on board with the 'now’ side. Harper would play right field, moving Werth to center."
An NL scout the Boston Globe writer speaks to for the article asks rhetorically, "'Could [Harper] handle the big leagues?,'" before answering himself, saying, "'Absolutely. Would it hurt to play some Triple A? Of course not,'" which is essentially what the Nationals' GM said recently when asked about Harper winning the job as the Nats' Opening Day right fielder. "I see him as a guy who doesn't need a whole lot of minor league seasoning," Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy, "but it never hurts a player to go and get some at bats at a lower level than the major leagues."
The decision, however, will be based on Harper's performance and development, not anything else, the Nats' GM assured everyone during a recent appearance on ESPN980's The Sports Reporters. "It's certainly not contract-based, it's not service-time based," Rizzo said, "It's going to be strictly based on the performance of the player and the development of the player and those are two distinct differentials. This is a young player that has a chance to be a real star in the game. We're not going to retard his progress by being ultra-careful with him, but we're certainly not going to accelerate his progress in lieu of developing him correctly so when he gets to the big leagues he's there, he's comfortable, we're comfortable with him being there and he stays there and really performs for the long-term."
Spring Training can't start soon enough...