A CBSSports Baseball Insider report by Danny Knobler suggests that the Red Sox are one of the teams still considering the acquisition of Washington Nationals starter John Lannan.
Even though Alex Speier of WEEI.com says that no offer has been made, there seems to be little question that the Red Sox are kicking the tires.
As Opening Day approaches, Boston seems no closer to answering the fifth starter question than they were in December. Carlos Silva is out of the mix due to injury, and Andrew Miller has also been held back due to a stiff elbow.
Aaron Cook is being brought along very slowly—so slowly that it is unlikely he will be ready. Same goes for Ross Ohlendorf.
Yes, Alfredo Aceves is a possibility, but do the Red Sox want to take the two best relievers they have out of the bullpen? (Daniel Bard has looked promising as the fourth starter.)
I have argued more than once this offseason—and even before the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson—that Washington was a good potential place to find another proven arm.
Washington, believe it or not, has too many major league-ready starters.
Back on December 27, well before the Jackson deal, Pete Kerzel of MASN wrote, "There's no way around it: The Nationals have at least one more starting pitcher than spots in the vastly improved five-man rotation that will break camp from spring training in Viera, Fla., in early April."
Add Jackson to the mix, and Washington now has at least two starters too many.
Jackson, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny and Craig Stammen have all been in the mix.
Even if you pencil Gorzelanny in for the bullpen and eliminate Stammen from rotation consideration, Washington still has Wang, Detwiler and Lannan competing for one spot.
The Nationals also have needs that the Red Sox might be able to fill, either directly or indirectly.
Their biggest question mark is center field. Rookie phenom Bryce Harper will eventually solve their outfield problem, but apparently the 19-year-old is not ready. Losing a week to a calf injury this spring has probably wiped out whatever small chance he had to make the team, as he acknowledged to Jon Heyman of Baseball Insider this week.
Washington signed former Red Sox and Marlins bust Mike Cameron as a non-roster invitee and re-signed former pitcher Rick Ankiel to compete with the immortal Roger Bernadina for the open outfield spot. Cameron has since retired, and the Nationals are now supposedly shopping Lannan aggressively.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes, "When we asked an exec of one team that had spoken with the Nationals if they appeared committed to dealing Lannan this spring, his answer was: '100 percent.' "
In recent weeks they have supposedly spoken with the Angels about Peter Bourjos and the Orioles about Adam Jones.
As I wrote on February 10, "Orioles reporter Amber Theoharis suggested John Lannan and Ross Detwiler for Adam Jones, while her colleague Roch Kubatko suggested second base prospect Steven Lombardozzi along with Lannan and a pitching prospect for Jones."
Washington finds itself in a bit of a dilemma, because the talented but oft-injured Detwiler is out of options. That means he can't be sent to Triple-A without clearing waivers. He's a former first-round draft pick, and some other team would claim him for sure.
Phil Wood of MASN Sports wrote, "I wouldn't be surprised if veteran lefty John Lannan ends up in some other team's uniform by opening day. The ballclub likes Lannan, but I suspect they like Ross Detwiler's stuff a little more."
Washington's other problem lies with the axiom that says "you can never have too many starting pitchers." Isn't that what folks said about the Red Sox last year? Look what happened.
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Chien-Ming Wang are all coming off recent surgeries, so Washington will want to wait until the last possible minute to decide on whether or not to part with any of their backup starters.
The Nats are on record saying they will shut Strasburg down after he reaches 160 innings. It's been four years since Wang has pitched 100 innings, and who knows how many innings Jordan Zimmermann will be able to throw in 2012? (He was limited to 160 in 2011.)
The other stumbling block for a Red Sox/Nationals trade is the fact that the Boston outfielder who might appeal to Washington—Ryan Kalish—won't be ready for the start of the season.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe believes, however, that a trade could still happen. "It doesn’t have to be a center fielder,’’ one major league source told Cafardo. “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.’’