With Washington Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan currently sitting in the minor leagues and the Chicago Cubs in desperate need of a lefty starter, there is a very natural fit. At the same time, though, the Cubs have something that could really help the Nats out as well.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times, the Cubs want Lannan in order to fill a void in their starting rotation and may be willing to deal outfielder Marlon Byrd in return. Such a deal may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it would help both teams fill a major hole.
The Cubs actually have a fairly promising starting rotation, but it lacks mystery. Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are a formidable one-two punch at the top and new starter Jeff Samardzija was extremely impressive in his first career start. The Cubs only have one lefty on the staff, though, and that is Paul Maholm who was bombed in his first start of the year.
Lannan isn't anything incredible as he pitches to contact and relies heavily on his defense, but he has been a reliable guy for the Nationals for the past few seasons. Not only has he started at least 25 games in four consecutive years, but he has had an ERA under 4.00 in three of those seasons and has a career ERA of 4.00.
Basically, Lannan is a bottom-of-the-rotation starter, but since he is a southpaw he is significantly more valuable. Also, if the Cubs deal off Byrd, it will leave a bit of an opening, but they have options. Either it will allow both Reed Johnson and David DeJesus to start every day, or they can call up speedy center fielder Tony Campana to fill the void left by Byrd's departure.
Which team would get the better of this rumored deal?
As for the Nationals, it is quite obvious that they don't need Lannan since he didn't even make the Opening Day roster. Washington's starting rotation is stacked with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson, and that could be enough to lead them to an elusive playoff berth.
Coincidentally, the biggest weakness for the Nats offensively resides in center field. Roger Bernadina is little more than a stopgap and Washington would do well to upgrade as soon as possible. Say what you will about Byrd being prone to injury, but he has a career batting average of .280 and hit a career-high 20 home runs three seasons ago, so he can be a major contributor with the bat.
In this hypothetical trade, both teams would be dealing from a relative position of strength and plugging a hole elsewhere. It isn't often that a trade is truly fair for both sides, but if there is any truth to this rumored deal then it is a no-brainer for both parties involved.
There is no sense in allowing Lannan to sit in the minors if you're the Nats, especially if you can get a valuable asset like Byrd in return. Also, while the Cubs may not have the greatest depth in the outfield, they desperately need to get a quality lefty in the rotation to keep the opposition honest, and Lannan would provide that type of presence.
Both of these teams have been cellar dwellers for the past several seasons and while that may remain true for the Cubs, the NL Central is fairly wide open. Additionally, the Nats were a chic pick to make the playoffs as a wild card prior to the start of the season thanks to the addition of another wild-card spot.
This trade isn't going to make either team a World Series contender, but it's fair to say that it would bring them each one step closer to legitimacy.