Former Washington Nationals Opening Day starter John Lannan had made headlines in the DC sports world lately, and today is no exception. John Lannan has requested a trade from GM Mike Rizzo, according to several baseball sources. This comes just hours after Lannan was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse to start the season in favor of former first-round pick Ross Detwiler.
This request is just the latest development in the shocking situation regarding Lannan and the Nationals organization. Lannan was widely regarded as the Nationals No. 5 starter up until yesterday, when Detwiler was unexpectedly named to that spot. Lannan's numbers certainly earn him the honor of being a big league starter, but he finds himself as the odd man out as the Nats rotation improves around him and rapidly. It is telling that the Nationals rotation had him No. 1 just two seasons ago, but now he fails to even make the 25-man roster. The move shows the team's commitment to success, despite the financial implications of sending down a pitcher due to earn $5 million this season.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, this situation devolved fairly quickly. Earlier in spring training, rumors surrounded John Lannan and a possible trade, but it never came to fruition. Lannan never drew the interest the Nationals had hoped, and he went untraded. When Chien-Ming Wang was hurt in a freak accident covering first base, Lannan was the easy choice to slot into the No. 5 spot, but obviously the front office and Manager Davey Johnson had other thoughts. Enter Ross Detwiler.
This situation could have far reaching implications for the Nationals. While the team expected to receive something of value back from a Lannan trade, like a bench player or a prospect, he's gone from a player that a team could value as a middle-to-back of the rotation starter to a player the rest of the league knows the Nationals want to unload. Obviously this decreases his trade value early in the season, but the Nationals are under no obligation to move Lannan yet. Despite Lannan's request, he has an option left, and the Nats can just leave him in Syracuse until someone in the rotation gets hurt or Stephen Strasburg reaches his innings limit. It may not be the most glamorous way to deal with your two-time Opening Day starter, but it's part of the process at this time.
The Nationals Front Office will start listening to offers for Lannan almost immediately, but until players like Matt Purke are ready for primetime, the Nats don't have a ton of starting pitching depth after the Gio Gonzalez trade that sent Brad Peacock, Tommy Malone, and AJ Cole to Oakland. The Nationals would be wise to sit on Lannan for a while if they can get by with him in Syracuse.
The Nats are at an organizational crossroads, and without pitching depth, the thing that has brought the team to this point may be in jeopardy of sinking the team. The way the Nationals deal with this Lannan situation over the next few weeks could have far reaching affects on the organization's future. They've already shown they're willing to put a $5 million pitcher in the minors in favor of baseball success; this could be a defining moment in the next few years in Nationals history.