John Lannan’s time in Washington may finally be at a close. The experienced lefty, who spent most of his season toiling away in the minors, is expected to be traded or non-tendered this offseason, according to “people familiar with the Nationals’ thinking.” Indeed, an article from the Washington Times earlier today suggests that a non-tender later this month is expected.
Lannan, 28, is arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2013, and made $5 million in 2012. He didn’t add much Major League service time in 2012 (he was mostly up for just September), but he’d still probably see a raise to about $6 million. The Nationals will be determining, between now and the end of November (non-tender deadline), whether a $6 million Lannan has any trade value, or whether they should just let him go.
Either way, the Cubs are almost certainly going to explore that option, though waiting out the non-tender deadline is the obvious preference.
Lannan didn’t pitch all that well in the minors (4.30 ERA, 1.439 WHIP, 1.72 K/BB in 148.2 innings), but it was under pretty unique circumstances – until his demotion, he’d been a 104 ERA+ pitcher for four straight seasons as a starter in Washington. The advanced metrics have never been particularly kind to Lannan (FIP in the 4.50 range (but improving each year), and a WAR around just 1.3), but neither have they ever suggested he couldn’t be a serviceable back-end starter in the bigs (at the worst).
Lannan could be a fit for the Cubs for another reason: he’s a groundball-inducing lefty. The nature of Wrigley Field – primarily, its friendliness to left-handed power hitters (it tends to be one of the top five each year), and it’s friendliness to everyone on windy days – tends to make it particularly cruel to fly ball pitchers, especially righties. Lannan – like Paul Maholm before him – could find surprising success at Wrigley Field, given his skill set. That he pitches lefty, Lannan could help neutralize those lefty power hitters. And that he is a groundball pitcher could help neutralize some of the other homers.
Further, with a Gold Glover at second base, a probable future Gold Glover at first base, and a possible future Gold Glover at short, the Cubs might actually be fairly well built for a groundball pitcher in 2013.
When considering everything, together with the likely slim cost, I could be into Lannan as one of the Cubs’ pitching additions this offseason.