Before the Prince Fielder extravaganza, a main talking point of the Detroit Tigers’ winter was their toying with the idea of adding another established starter to their rotation. Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza, and Roy Oswalt, among others, have been, at points, alleged targets of Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit brass. No acquisition ever seemed imminent however, and the Tigers have long wished us to believe in their contentedness with a six-man competition, between youngsters with widely varying resumes, to fill the fifth starter void; Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby, Drew Smyly, Duane Below, and Jacob Turner (in no particular order) are each considered to be in contention for an opportunity to come north to Detroit in mere weeks as a major league starting pitcher.
Meanwhile, in Washington Nationals spring camp, Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan are locked in a struggle for the same position in a different city. Since they’re set to make $4 and $5 million respectively for the coming season, it makes sense, from the team’s perspective, to trade one. As Wang was re-signed in November, left-hander Lannan would seem likely to be the departing pitcher.
Who would covet Lannan for the money he’s set to earn, especially considering his potential to earn a raise through his final arbitration year in 2013? It’s the $5 million dollar question Washington is increasingly unlikely to answer before the season begins.
But wait—some national writers believe the Nationals could find a suitor in your Tigers. Last week, Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors noted, through James Schmehl at MLive.com, in his profile of Lannan as a trade candidate, Detroit’s apparent openness to the prospect of deepening their pitching store. Today, Ken Rosenthal perpetuated the idea of Lannan to the Tigers by writing in his column that “one source mentioned the Tigers as a possibility” for Washington and Lannan. On Twitter, Jon Morosi, Rosenthal’s FOXSports.com colleague, marked Lannan as an “intriguing option” for Detroit.
None of the above means a ton. No one, as of now, is saying Dave Dombrowski is to the point of negotiating with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. The interest Dombrowski and his staff may have in Lannan is no doubt cramped by the former’s possession of six cheaper options. Lannan remains an attractive talking point, though, because of his status as a young left-hander with four full seasons’ experience, and the fact that he finished three of said seasons with a sub-four ERA. (Note that Lannan’s peripheral numbers have long been a concern to some who believe he’s been aided by factors largely outside of his control.)
It would appear Dombrowski and Rizzo are on good terms, as evidenced by their ability to pull off a change-of-scenery swap of Ryan Perry and Collin Balester in December. Lannan pitched against the Tigers in the 5-5 tie in Lakeland on Saturday, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk in two laborious innings (he threw 56 pitches on the day). He was reportedly happier with his outing than the box score might suggest. Perhaps Detroit saw something to like.
If Washington remains intent on moving Lannan now (for what it’s worth, Jim Bowden says they’re not desperate to, but Bill Ladson of MLB.com heard from a source last week who believes a deal will be made), they should not expect to receive much, other than salary relief, in return, and may wind up forced to eat a chunk of his contract. They would like someone to play center field, a position Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas are both capable of playing.
For the Tigers, Lannan is absolutely an option worth exploring, but it’s more likely Detroit will be shopping in the bargain bin if they do choose to add an arm before opening day.