WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals are reuniting with a familiar face, but with a twist. The club signed left-hander John Lannan, the best pitcher on the worst Nationals teams over their early existence, to a minor league contract with the intention of making him a submariner reliever, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Lannan last played for the Nationals in 2012 and in the majors for the Mets in 2014 before spending the next two seasons pitching in Class AAA.
The Nationals selected Lannan in the 11th round of the 2005 draft, the franchise’s first in Washington. He reached the majors in 2007 and became a mainstay during the club’s roughest stretch. He got the nod as the club’s Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010 and remained with the team through 2012, when Washington’s reached the postseason for the first time. Despite not pitching for the Nationals over the past four seasons, he still ranks fifth in club history in innings pitched (783 2/3) and tied for fifth in wins (42).
But Lannan’s time with Washington ended tumultuously. First, the left-hander lost his arbitration hearing and was appointed a $5 million salary for the 2012 season, instead of the $5.7 million he requested. Then, despite Manager Davey Johnson indicating Lannan would be the club’s fifth starter, Ross Detweiler was chosen over him. Lannan was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse to begin the season, becoming the highest-paid player in baseball history to be optioned to the minors during spring training.
As a result, Lannan requested a trade and emailed a statement to reporters explaining his reasoning for the request. The Nationals, however, didn’t trade him, and Lannan began the season with Syracuse. He spent the majority of the season in the minors – he made 24 starts for Syracuse – but also made six starts for the Nationals.
They were his final six with Washington. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for the 2013 season and recorded a 5.33 ERA in 14 starts. He then appeared in five games out of the bullpen in 2014 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since, spending the past two seasons with the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals’ Class AAA affiliates. In 25 games (19 starts) for the Omaha Storm Chasers last year, Lannan had a 5.24 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.