I can’t say that I was surprised when the team signed Edwin Jackson a couple months ago; Mike Rizzo very openly coveted Jackson at the trade deadline in 2010, with wide spread rumors of a 1-for-1 trade straight up for Adam Dunn falling through at the last minute. Then, with almost no leading rumors during the waning weeks of the Hot Stove league this past off-season, the Nats swooped in for a relatively affordable $11M deal for the hard-throwing Jackson. Rizzo likes power arms and Jackson is that power arm, and save any other reason for signing him, he makes the team stronger (especially if they can fix his windup/stretch splits).
Absent any other proof, I (and many others) figured that Jackson’s signing meant the end of the road with the team for John Lannan, who seemed set to lose out on the race for the Nats 5 rotation spots for 2012. The logic seemed pretty clear to me: Strasburg and Zimmermann are your home-grown 1-2 punch, newly acquired Gonzalez cost the team a ransom in terms of farm system depth, and now you had Wang and Jackson on newly signed one-year FA contracts. The implication of the last point is thus: newly signed Free Agents, by rule of the CBA, cannot be traded without their consent in the first year of a FA contract until at least June 15th. That’s 5 starters for 5 spots.
This didn’t seem to make sense; the team has an underrated talent in Lannan, a sturdy lefty who hasn’t missed a start due to injury in his career here and, save a mid season swoon in 2010 has been a better-than-replacement starter for this team. Why purposely replace him? Wouldn’t most every team trade their 5th starter for someone like Lannan, who (even at $5M) is a pretty good, cheap option?
A 5th paragraph item buried in Pete Kerzel‘s latest report on Wang may have a hidden detail; Wang has reportedly been dealing with “shoulder stiffness” early on in spring training. Stiffness and limitations in the shoulder of someone coming off of shoulder surgery is not exactly the news you want to hear, though every other beat reporter spoke today of Wang looking “sharp” and his sinker showing “exceptional movement.”
Maybe that’s incredible over-analysis of an off-handed, probably benign comment. Maybe the real answer is that Rizzo is at a point with this team where he can afford to buy too many starters and have depth above replacement starters in case someone goes down with injury. I’ve said in this space Lannan is odd-man out if everyone is healthy and I still believe that (he has a minor league option but his relationship with the team likely will be ruined if he gets assigned to Syracuse). Or perhaps Rizzo has a trade up his sleeve for the long-elusive center fielder. Or, just perhaps, there’s a 15-day DL trip for Wang in our future with Lannan slotting right in where he has been for several years; in our opening day rotation.