Washington Nationals: John Lannan Wants to Be Traded, so Where Will He Go?

Ian Casselberry@iancassMLB Lead WriterApril 5, 2012

Washington Nationals pitcher John Lannan quickly shot down any thought that he might accept his demotion to Class-AAA Syracuse and hope for a call back up to the majors soon.

Wednesday night, Lannan e-mailed the beat reporters who cover the Nats to inform them that he'd asked the team to be traded. Expressing his "disappointment" with the decision, the 27-year-old left-hander said he met twice with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to tell him he belongs in a major league starting rotation.

"I know what my rights and the team’s rights are," Lannan said in the message, the full text of which was published by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. "And while I am still a member of the Washington Nationals organization, I let Mike know that I believe a trade would be the best solution for everyone in both the short and long term."

Lannan went 10-13 last season with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts for the Nationals. 

Rizzo had already attempted to trade Lannan during spring training, with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros rumored to be interested in making a deal. But the Nats asked for too much in return, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. No suitor wanted to give up a major league-caliber player, especially if Rizzo wasn't willing to pick up some of Lannan's $5 million salary for 2012. 

Yet Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson now insist that Lannan isn't going to be traded. Perhaps it's a stance intended to attract stronger offers from interested teams. Or the team realizes that a major league team will need more starting pitching during the long grind of a season, and Lannan could be of use later. 

But if Rizzo was to back off from his initial demands, which teams look like a good fit for Lannan? 

Each of the Nats' rivals in the NL East might be interested in starting pitching depth. But a trade within the division is unlikely to happen, so we'll leave those clubs off the list. So let's look at the teams that have already been mentioned.


Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have plenty of candidates for the fifth spot in their rotation, all younger, unproven left-handers. Drew Smyly won the job this spring, beating out pitchers with more experience, such as Duane Below.

But Smyly, 22, has only one minor league season on his resume and might be yet another young pitcher the Tigers rushed to the majors. Lannan would provide some veteran reliability at the back end of the Detroit rotation. 


Boston Red Sox

The fourth and fifth pitchers in the Red Sox starting five each come into the 2012 season with question marks.

Lefty Felix Doubrant was a surprise addition to the staff after compiling a 2.70 ERA this spring. Following him is Daniel Bard, making the transition from reliever to starter. Bard had a rough spring, allowing 18 runs and 21 hits in 24 2/3 innings. 

As with the Tigers, Lannan would be less of an uncertainty in the Red Sox's rotation. This could also help the bullpen if Bobby Valentine were to move Bard back to a late-inning role. 


Houston Astros

Here's yet another team with unproven candidates at the back end of its rotation. The Astros should pitch Lucas Harrell and Kyle Weiland this season and see if they're viable big league starters. But Lannan could fill the role Houston originally envisioned for Livan Hernandez before he was released.

Lannan would give the Astros innings and won't walk many batters, something any big league pitching staff—especially a young one—needs. But is Jeff Luhnow really looking to add payroll? 


Los Angeles Angels

The Angels might have the strongest top four pitchers of any team in baseball. But they have a big hole in that fifth spot.

Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams are the candidates for that role, but neither inspires confidence. Richards allowed 23 hits in 20 1/3 innings this spring, while Williams suffered a hamstring injury in early March and never pitched. 

Payroll presumably wouldn't be an issue for the Angels, though no team wants to pay its fifth starter $5 million. But what kinds of prospects might the Nats be seeking in return?


Baltimore Orioles

The only proven pitcher the O's have in their rotation is Tommy Hunter, who came over in the Koji Uehara trade last season. Jake Arrieta had a 5.05 ERA in 2011, Jason Hammel is coming over from the National League, Wei-Ying Chen is pitching in the majors after four seasons in Japan and Brian Matusz took a major step back in his development last year. 

Yes, there's probably a spot for Lannan, And payroll shouldn't be an issue because plenty of people have already turned down Peter Angelos' money. Plus, the Nats could save some travel costs, shipping him 40 miles from D.C. to Baltimore. 


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