March 21, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan (31) during the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Space Coast Stadium. Atlanta won 3-2 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Chicago Cubs Targeting John Lannan?


While the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals go against each other on the field, Cubs’ president Theo Epstein and General Manager Hoyer may be having discussions with Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo. While the Cubs have set their initial 25 man roster, more roster moves are expected to be made over the weekend. Rodrigo Lopez is expected to be placed on the Cubs’ 25 man roster at some point in the coming days. In order for the Cubs to do so, a position player is likely on his way off the roster. It would seem that the likely candidate to be moved in order to create room for Lopez is utility infielder Blake DeWitt. Recently claimed infielder Luis Valbuena is out of minor league options, meaning he is going to stay on the 25 man roster as the primary backup to shortstop Starlin Castro. Eyebrows were raised on Thursday when Jeff Baker got the start at first base in place of the injured Bryan LaHair. The expectation on Wednesday was that if LaHair was unable to play on Thursday because of his bad back, DeWitt would get the start at first base. DeWitt did not get the start, but he did have a pinch hit appearance.

But nonetheless, when Lopez is added to the 25 man roster this weekend, it would seem that DeWitt is the prime candidate to be shown the door.

However, that may not be only move that the Cubs make this weekend. That is depending on the magnitude of discussions between Epstein, Hoyer, and Rizzo.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times, the Cubs are interested in recently demoted Washington Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan. Lannan was optioned to Triple A to begin the season,  but is on the hook to earn $ 5 million this season regardless of whether or not he is on a Major League roster. It has previously been documented that the Cubs and Nationals have had discussions at various times this off-season in talks that revolved around Cubs’ center fielder Marlon Byrd being sent to the Nationals for some form of pitching. Former Cubs’ pitcher and current National Tom Gorzelanny is believed to have been mentioned in those talks. Wittenmyer reports that Lannan’s name was also mentioned as part of those talks.

In light of his demotion to Triple A, Lannan has requested a trade. While Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters that lannan is not going to be traded, Rizzo told reporters that he told Lannan his self that the starting pitcher is going to contribute to a Major League team this season. Rizzo’s comments would suggest that Nationals may honor Lannan’s request. The Cubs have waisted no time. As Wittenmyer’s report notes that the Cubs have once again inquired on Lannan’s availability.

The Cubs’ interest in Lannan is a bit peculiar. While Lannan is a 27 year old starting pitcher that posted an ERA of 3.70 for the Nationals last season, the Cubs seemingly did not have room for another starting pitcher. After all, Randy Wells–who pitched successfully in Spring Training–was forced to start the season in Iowa because of the plethora of starting pitching that the Cubs have. A trade for Lannan would only create more questions than answers for the Cubs.

There is one possible scenario where a Lannan trade makes sense. Though even that scenario wouldn’t be realistic unless Wells is traded. In that scenario, the Cubs would presumably trade Byrd for Lannan. Lannan would take Rodrigo Lopez’s spot in the bullpen, thus meaning that the Cubs would not have to move DeWitt off the 25 man roster. While Reed Johnson and Joe Mather platoon in center field until top prospect Brett Jackson is called up, Lannan would be the long-man in the bullpen. The Cubs figure to trade a starting pitcher at some point this season, with Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster looking like prime trade candidates. Once the Cubs trade a starting pitcher from their rotation, Lannan would then take the vacant spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation.

While the Cubs may be interested in Lannan, I can’t imagine a trade between the Cubs and Nationals ever materializes. Unless, of course, the Cubs have underlying moves lined up.

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Tags: Blake DeWitt Bryan LaHair Chicago Cubs Jed Hoyer Jeff Baker John Lannan Luis Valbuena Matt Garza Mike Rizzo Randy Wells Rodrigo Lopez Ryan Dempster Theo Epstein Washington Nationals