Mike Rizzo explains the Nationals’ non-tender decisions

Jonathan Newton/WP

Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo explained the Nationals’ three non-tender decisions, giving his rationale for letting left-hander John Lannan, catcher Jesus Flores and reliever Tom Gorzelanny become free agents.

Lannan would likely have made a little more than $5 million from the Nationals next year after he spent all of last season in the minors. He has twice started opening day for the Nationals and has been a consistent, durable pitcher since coming into the Nationals’ rotation in 2008. Rizzo simply feels the Nationals can find a better fifth starter for the value.

“We felt it was time for John to move on,” Rizzo said, speaking at Manager Davey Johnson’s charity golf tournament. “To tender him a contract at the money he was going to make, it didn’t make sense for us.”

Flores was the Nationals’ starting catcher for a large chunk of 2012, between Wilson Ramos tearing his ACL and Kurt Suzuki coming in a trade from Oakland. With Ramos healthy and with rookies Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon both acquitting themselves well in brief stints, the Nationals no longer needed Flores. He likely would have made between $1 million and $1.5 million.

“With the addition of Suzuki and the emergence of Solano and Leon, we feel we’re very deep at that position,” Rizzo said.

The Nationals will move on from Lannan and Flores, but they could still try to re-sign Gorzelanny as a free agent. Gorzelanny made $3 million last year while serving primarily as a long reliever. He would have received a modest raise, to perhaps as much as $4 million.  

“For the amount of money we would have to pay for the role we’re asking him to do, we didn’t think that made sense to us,” Rizzo said.

But Gorzelanny pitched better than a typical long reliever, posting a 2.88 ERA. He kept the Nationals within striking distance in many games and sopped up innings to conserve other relievers. The Nationals could still try to bring him back.

“We feel there is a price point he makes sense for us,” Rizzo said. “He’s a valuable guy for us. We just couldn’t get anything done before the tender date.”

Needing to fill the spot Gorzelanny held last season, the Nationals could also try to re-sign Zach Duke, who spent last year as a starter at Class AAA Syracuse and posted a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings a September call-up. Duke, 29, was an all-star in 2009 and, like Gorzelanny, would provide emergency starting depth.

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