Washington Nationals fans that had John Lannan in the starting rotation on Opening Day 2012 may want to think again. According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Nats are "aggressively shopping" the left-handed starter.
The name John Lannan elicits strong responses from NatsTown in both positive and negative ways. Some fondly remember Lannan as the two-time Opening Day starter for the Nationals. He personified the old mantra of pitching for the Nationals started by Livan Hernandez, where location was more important than power. Others can't wait to see Lannan leave, as he represents the old guard and doesn't fit the mold of power pitching that the Nationals now have in Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Gonzalez. Over the last 4 seasons with the Nationals, Lannan posted a 4.00 ERA, a 1.418 WHIP, and he's seen his WAR decrease in each of the the last 4 seasons to a mediocre 0.9 WAR last season.
If Lannan gets moved, the most logical decision is to have Ross Detwiler fill that spot. Detwiler is another left that has more power than Lannan and his a year and a half younger. What's more, Detwiler showed a lot of promise last year in September. Both players are out of options, which puts the Nationals in a difficult spot.
The Nationals could also go out and pick up one of the two big pitching free agents left, as Rosenthal suggests in his article. Both Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson are available to be picked up before Spring Training. Oswalt has been extremely durable until last season when he missed time with a back injury and posted a 3.47 ERA and a 1.180 WHIP over the last three seasons for the Astros and Phillies. Meanwhile, Jackson has pitched for four teams in the last three years while maintaining a 3.96 ERA and a 1.363 WHIP.
I think it's easy to argue here that the Nats would seriously consider making a move to sign one of these free agents if Lannan is moved with Ross Detwiler ending up in the bullpen to pad one of the best 'pens in baseball. However, Jackson's numbers are so close to Lannan's over the last three years, it seems that Oswalt would be the more likely candidate for the Nationals to take a chance on. That ERA and low WHIP are extremely compelling, especially for a guy that figures to be a #5 starter in an increasingly impressive pitching staff. Either one could be valuable to eat innings in a year where Stephen Strasburg will be on a strict innings limit.
This report is just another example of how the Washington Nationals continue their move into national baseball relevance, a place where they haven't been since 2005 (except for June 8, 2010).
UPDATE (1:02 PM): Rosenthal reports that the Nationals are interested in Jackson, not Oswalt.