At Friday night’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Nationals will non-tender starter John Lannan, reliever Tom Gorzelanny and catcher Jesus Flores, cutting ties with two of the longest-tenured members of the roster. Barring any last-minute changes before midnight, all three will become free agents. No official announcement has yet been made.
Lannan is the most prominent figure of the three, a two-time Nationals opening day starter and as part of the team for the past six seasons, its second-longest-serving player behind Ryan Zimmerman. Gorzelanny, who would have been the team’s sole returning left-handed reliever, is a somewhat surprising non-tender.
The Nationals were expected to tender contracts to seven arbitration eligible players: Roger Bernadina, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen and Jordan Zimmermann.
The Nationals have until mid-February to reach deals with their tendered players in order to avoid arbitration hearings with them, a contentious process most teams prefer to avoid. Players can officially file for arbitration from Jan. 5 through Jan. 15, and the two sides must exchange proposed salary figures by Jan. 18. If necessary, arbitration hearings will be held from Feb. 4 through Feb. 20.
Lannan, a left-handed groundball pitcher, spent much of the season in Class AAA Syracuse, losing his spot in the rotation in spring training. Flores, a backup catcher who spent part of last season as the Nationals’ everyday backstop after a season-ending injury to Wilson Ramos in May, didn’t fit in the team’s rotation of Ramos and Kurt Suzuki next season. Gorzelanny, who was a versatile piece of the bullpen but mostly an innings eater, was likely to earn at least the $3 million he received last season. All three are capable major league players and are expected to be picked up by other teams.
Lannan, 28, made $5 million last season and stood to make close to the same amount in arbitration. Even though he is a proven starter – a career 4.01 ERA with 42-52 record in 134 starts – the team is looking to move on from him and starter Edwin Jackson, who left through free agency after a one-year deal.
Lannan spent most of the season in exile in Syracuse, was called up to the Nationals for spot starts and then took Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the rotation after he was shut down in September.
Flores, 28, made $815,000 last season and appears likely to earn about the same in arbitration. Before the 2012 season, the Nationals avoided arbitration with him by agreeing to a one-year contract to serve as Ramos’s backup. But after Ramos went down, Flores played every day and wore down. The right-handed hitter hit .213 and, with little help from the Nationals’ pitching staff, threw out 15 percent of the runners who tried to steal against him. Flores, who was once seen as the Nationals’ future catcher, played in 311 games for the Nationals, including 83 games this season, in a career slowed by injuries to his right shoulder.
Gorzelanny, 30, a former starter who served as a long reliever last season, was entering his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2014. The Nationals acquired him in a trade with the Chicago Cubs before the 2011 season and avoided arbitration before last season by agreeing to a one-year deal.
Gorzelanny would have been a needed left-handed arm in the bullpen should the Nationals lose Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez in free agency. With that possibility, they might seek to re-sign him as a free agent. The Nationals are also interested in free agent Zack Duke, a left-handed starter they used in the bullpen in September and October last season.
By non-tendering all three players, especially Lannan and Gorzelanny, the Nationals stand to save at least $9 million. In non-tendering Lannan, Flores and Gorzelanny, the number of players on the Nationals’ 40-man roster drops to 36.