Yesterday the Nats optioned John Lannan to triple-A. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post used the phrase "cold-blooded". To me its far more than that.
This move is an important one for the Nationals organization. It signals an important shift in focus, from perennial underdog to consistent contender. Yes, the Nats are at a point in their existence where the personnel decisions are made strictly based on the on-the-field product. Gone are the days of "Mike Bascik, he's such a nice guy, great story, glad he's on our team" and in are the times where the most reliable Nats starter in history is optioned to Syracuse. It's encouraging to future fans of the team and means that the building of a rotation by cattle call is a thing of the past.
But none of that makes this alright with me. John Lannan is a wonderful person and very good pitcher. Let's look at the stats: 751 innings pitched in 128 starts, basically 6 innings per start, an ERA right at 4.00 and has a career WAR over 7 in 5 seasons, all the while costing a total just north of 3.5 million dollars (not a year...for his whole time in a Nats uni). He has been the stalwart of the rotation and endured the humiliation that was the Nats run-support and defense. To demote him to triple-A and tell him in the middle of the last exhibition game is so outside the realm of decent that there are no words.
This was an inevitable step in the progression towards being a keystone franchise. It makes the on-field product better, or at least gives it more potential. And Lannan at Syracuse is a nice insurance policy. That does not excuse this. John Lannan deserved better of the Nationals. Be it through trade or outright release, he is a Major League pitcher and the ignominy of being sent to triple-A is outrageous. The lack of decency and loyalty will not soon be forgotten by Lannan. Or me.