Thursday, February 2, 2012
Nats sign Jackson; Lannan on trade block?
By David Schoenfield
Well, Edwin Jackson didn't get the big deal he was looking for. In the end, he's still a pitcher who allowed a .342 on-base percentage in 2011; among 94 qualified starting pitchers (162 innings), that ranked 84th.
For all the offseason speculation (I don't think "hype" is quite the right word), Jackson is basically a No. 4-caliber starter, albeit one who has made 30-plus starts five seasons in a row. He comes with little risk but little chance for upside. Anyway, the Washington Nationals swooped in and signed him to a one-year deal.
The signing apparently would push Chien-Ming Wang out of the No. 5 spot. Actually, however, the Nationals had several candidates for the final rotation spot. Their rotation would now line up something like this:
1. Stephen Strasburg
2. Gio Gonzalez (L)
3. Jordan Zimmermann
4. John Lannan (L)
5. Edwin Jackson
6. Chien-Ming Wang
7. Ross Detwiler (L)
8. Tom Gorzelanny (L)
Here are the 2011 statistics for the bottom five guys:
Detwiler and Gorzelanny did spend time in the bullpen; Gorzelanny in particular pitched well from there and held lefties to a .157 average. Let's take him out of the equation and put him in the bullpen as a middle-innings lefty-killer. Obviously, Jackson will be in the rotation. That leaves Lannan, Wang and Detwiler for one spot. While there's never such a thing as having too much pitching -- especially considering the injury issues in the past for Strasburg and Zimmermann (not to mention Wang) -- as Jerry Crasnick hinted in his story, this opens up the possibility of trading Lannan.
The veteran left-hander was just awarded $5 million in arbitration and has two years of team control before free agency. As you can see by the numbers, I don't think he brings much more to the table than Detwiler or Wang. His peripherals don't suggest a pitcher with a 3.70 ERA, although he has managed a career 4.00 ERA despite unimpressive walk and strikeout rates.
But there are teams out there that could benefit from a solid, back-of-the-rotation starter such as Lannan, especially at a somewhat affordable $5 million. The Nationals could use an outfielder, either to bide time for Bryce Harper or allow the team to keep Mike Morse at first base instead of left field, where he's stretched defensively (yes, Adam LaRoche is still around as well). Here are some possibilities:
Blue Jays: Toronto currently has Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan in its rotation. The Jays have an Eric Thames/Ben Francisco platoon in left. The Nats could go after Thames (a left-handed bat they could use) or maybe former top prospect Travis Snider.
Royals: Maybe the $5 million is too steep for the Royals, but let's face it: If they want to consider themselves sleeper playoff contenders this year, they need to upgrade the rotation. Jarrod Dyson is an all-speed, no-power center fielder who might be a slight upgrade over Roger Bernadina if he can get on base enough.
Tigers: Detroit might want to keep top prospect Jacob Turner in Triple-A, but it lacks a lefty in the rotation. Lannan for Delmon Young or Andy Dirks?
Red Sox: Boston could certainly use another arm, but not sure there's a good fit here.
Cubs: Marlon Byrd is a free agent after the season and would be a nice one-year fill-in for the Nats in center. Not sure Lannan is Theo Epstein's type of pitcher, however.
What do you think?