What Was the Dodger Interest in John Lannan?

So Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Dodgers inquired on Washington’s John Lannan

The Dodgers and Rockies have had recent discussions with the Nationals about the veteran left-hander, but no trade is close, according to major-league sources.

The Rockies “kicked the tires” on Lannan but were turned off by the price, while talks between the Dodgers and Nationals have been only preliminary, sources say.

The Dodgers, short on prospects but financially flexible under new ownership, are looking for starting pitching, sources say. Lannan would be a potential alternative to left-hander Ted Lilly, who is on the disabled list with a shoulder problem.

…and I am completely mystified as to why. Oh, sure, there’s the usual disclaimer of “teams ask about a dozen guys every day leading to a million conversations which lead nowhere,” and that’s fine. It’s just that after the whole business of offering a contract to Roy Oswalt, it continues the ongoing question of why the Dodgers seem so intent on adding another starting pitcher. With Nathan Eovaldi pitching well & Lilly’s shoulder woes not considered all that serious, it’s hard to see how there’s an imminent need in the rotation, unless there’s more we don’t know about Lilly or Clayton Kershaw‘s bout with plantar fasciitis. This club has clear needs at each infield corner and potentially shortstop, so adding another starter to a rotation which doesn’t have an obvious spot to fill seems like an odd priority.

That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement, of course. If you could have picked up Oswalt, or if there’s some semi-theoretical way in which you can get a real front-end guy like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, then sure, send Aaron Harang to Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Antarctica for all I care. But Lannan… well, I get that the Nationals have a quality rotation for once, but he’s in the minors for a reason, and that reason is that he’s basically back-end filler. For his career, he’s got a mere 4.71 K/9 rate, and while he’s done a decent job of keeping balls on the ground and in the park it’s still surprising to me that he’s managed the meager success he’s had. You could make a convincing argument that had the Nationals not been so awful prior to this year – this is an organization that gave 62 starts to Livan Hernandez over the last two years, after all – he might not even have had the chance to stick around in a big-league rotation as long as he had. As soon as the Nationals imported some talent, it wasn’t hard to see that he was going to be the odd man out, and he’s doing little for Triple-A Syracuse to indicate that he’s an upgrade on anyone, showing poorer K/BB rates than he had in the bigs.

I might rather have him than, say, John Ely – though you could even argue that Ely is far outperforming Lannan in Triple-A this year – but Lannan is both costly (with between $3-$4m still coming to him this year) and someone the Nationals won’t let go for nothing. Even if you could get him for the right deal, he’s made his displeasure at being in the minors clear, so he’s not the kind of guy you’d get to stash in Albuquerque until the time was right. Building depth is fine. Adding guys who aren’t cheap, don’t fill a need, and aren’t upgrades on what you already have? That, we can do without.