The Washington Nationals may have let pitcher John Lannan get away too soon. After being demoted to AAA Syracuse in 2012, the left handed Lannan signed a one year $2.5 million contract to pitch for the NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies. Before he left, the Nationals starting rotation was in good shape as it boasted two left-handers in ace Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler. Then Gonzalez’s name became linked to a performance enhancing drug investigation and everything changed.
On January 29, reports surfaced linking Gonzalez to a Miami PED clinic and its chief Anthony Bosch. Gonzalez has denied publicly that he received PEDs from Bosch or has used them. MLB officials are investigating and only time will tell if the allegations prove true. Until then, Gonzalez and everyone involved have to be presumed innocent.
The Nationals could have re-signed Lannan and kept him in the fold. The team believes in stockpiling arms. Before being sent to AAA, Lannan was once at the top of the Washington rotation. He was the team’s opening day starter in 2010. However, the return of Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman from Tommy John surgery along with the signing of Gonzalez made Lannan the odd man out.
It came as a surprise to him and others when Detwiler won a spot in the rotation. Lannan was the good soldier and did not cause waves, but made it known that he wanted a chance to start in 2013. When the Nationals could not guarantee this, he signed with Philadelphia.
If the rumors surrounding Gonzalez had surfaced sooner, Washington may have decided to keep Lannan for insurance. He could have stepped into the rotation if Gonzalez ended up missing time due to suspension. This would have allowed the Nationals to keep two left-handers in the starting rotation. With Lannan gone, a suspension of Gonzalez would leave Washington in need of a fifth man to fill out the rotation and with only one left-handed starter.
Lannan would not have been at the top of the rotation like Gonzalez is. He would have been the fourth or fifth starter. However, he would have been an experienced, left-handed MLB pitcher to plug in which is something the Nationals do not have at the moment.
It is impossible for organizations to keep up with all of their players. Washington was probably blindsided by the Gonzalez rumors as much as everyone. There was nothing to suggest he was linked to a PED clinic. The Nationals can only go on what they know about Gonzalez which is that he is a top-notch pitcher and good teammate. There was no reason to make a move to replace him.
There still may not be any reason to do so. However, if there is a possibility of him being suspended Washington won’t be able to count on Lannan to step in.