After the Nationals chose this winter to leave John Lannan in their past, the former two-time opening day starter gave himself frequent and pointed opportunities to face to the only team he had known.
Lannan agreed this morning to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, a prominent pitcher in the Nationals’ brief history joining forces with their foremost rival in the National League East. The deal, which CSN Philadelphia first reported, will be worth $2.5 million with the chance for Lannan to earn up to $5 million based on incentives.
Lannan, 28, has started more games, 134, than any pitcher since the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005. Only Livan Hernandez has more wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. He started twice on opening day in 2009 and 2010. He was a steady force on dreadful teams, absorbing losses with scant run support and porous defenses behind him.
When the Nationals were bad, he was the best they had. Once they got good, they decided they no longer needed him. They did not tender him a contract at the Nov. 30 deadline, allowing him to become a free agent two years before he would have been eligible. The Nationals had no room in their rotation, but for Philadelphia he is the likely fifth starter.
The Nationals stashed Lannan at Class AAA Syracuse for most of 2012, paying him $5 million to serve as depth in anticipation of voluntarily removing Stephen Strasburg from the rotation. After initial disappointment and a public demand for a trade, Lannan pitched for Syracuse and contributed in the majors, going 4-1 in six major league starts.
Lannan started and won what many consider the Nationals’ most important game of their 98-win season. On July 21, with the Nationals mired in a five-game losing streak and clinging to a 1 ½-game lead over visiting Atlanta, Lannan arrived from Syracuse to pitch the second game of a doubleheader and shut down the Braves for seven two-run innings.
The starts Lannan made replacing Strasburg, the symbol of the Nationals’ emergence, will stand as his lasting impression in Washington. He’ll join the Phillies, the Nationals a rival and a team with which he has a sordid history.
Lannan made his major league debut in 2007 at Citizens Bank Park, an outing for which they still boo him there. He broke Chase Utley’s hand with an inside fastball, and later the home plate umpire ejected him for hitting slugger Ryan Howard with a pitch.
The Phillies thumped Lannan more than any other opponent. In 19 career starts against them, Lannan went 3-13 with a 5.53 ERA. In his career, Lannan is 42-52 with a 4.01 ERA. If he had never faced then, he would have been 39-39 with a 3.79 ERA. Lannan could rarely beat the Phillies, and now, spurned by the Nationals, he’ll join them.