The Nationals chose Ross Detwiler over Lannan, who twice has started for them opening day. Lannan, making $5 million this year, became the highest-paid player in baseball history to be optioned to the minors during spring training.
Lannan had a 3.70 ERA last season, which also makes him the first healthy pitcher to be optioned to the minors during spring the year after posting a sub-4.000 ERA. He was the second-longest tenured National behind Ryan Zimmerman.
Lannan entered spring training on shaky footing in the Nationals’ crowded rotation. After the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson late in the offseason, it gave them seven starters for five spots. But shortly after Chien-Ming Wang strained his hamstring, the Nationals anointed Lannan their fifth starter.
But in the week that followed, apparently, the Nationals changed course and came to believe Detwiler, a former first-round pick with the potential to pitch at the top of the rotation, had earned his way into the rotation. The move did not make much financial sense, but the Nationals believed it to be their best baseball decision.
The Nationals entered initial trade discussions with other teams but found tepid interest. The Nationals would not trade Lannan for less than they believed his value to be, and other teams would not — and have not — met their price. It is doubtful Lannan’s public request will help those matters.
Players need five years of service time to refuse a minor league assignment. Lannan has four years, so the Nationals have the right to refuse Lannan’s request and keep him in the minors as rotation depth.
The Nationals currently have Lannan slated to pitch Sunday for Class AAA Syracuse.
Lannan’s full statement, which he e-mailed to reporters, is here:
I am certainly disappointed in the Nationals’ decision. I met with Mike Rizzo for the second time since I received the news to tell him exactly how I feel, and my agent has also spoken to Mike. I know what my rights and the team’s rights are, and while I am still a member of the Washington Nationals organization, I let Mike know that I believe a trade would be the best solution for everyone in both the short and long term.
I believe that I belong in a big-league rotation. I am a proven major-league starting pitcher, with a track record of success.
I appreciate all the opportunities the Nationals organization has given me throughout the years. I’ve done a lot for this organization through some tough times. I anticipated on being part of the team’s next exciting chapter. If the Nationals feel they don’t need me or want me with the current make-up of the team, I can respect their decision. However, I’m very confident that I am capable of making a meaningful contribution to a major-league team.
This transaction will not change who I am or how I approach my business. I will continue to prepare myself for the season and look forward to the opportunity to pitch for a major-league team in the near future. I appreciate the space that you have given me over the past 24 hours. This will be the last time that I make any public comments on yesterday’s transaction or my future with the Nationals’ organization. My focus from here on out will be on playing the game that I love and demonstrating the professionalism that I have exhibited throughout my career.