Trade for fifth starter more likely? Hold on
While Andy Oliver walked five batters over 3 2/3 innings — and let’s be fair, that’s more of the question about his outing than the three-run homer — John Lannan tossed four scoreless innings for the Nationals Wednesday afternoon against the Braves. That was obviously a pretty big contrast in the question about the fifth starter job, though the tables were turned on Oliver and Lannan before that.
But then came the postgame word from Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who apparently gave the impression to reporters — including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson — that they’re not expecting Chien-Ming Wang to be ready for the start of the season.
John Lannan’s rumored availability on the trade market centered on the expectation that Washington won’t have a rotation spot for him. If Wang opens the season on the disabled list with his hamstring injury, then the Nats have a rotation spot to fill. One would expect they’d do it with Lannan.
Whenever the idea of trading for a starting pitcher has been mentioned, Lannan has been the oft-mentioned name. In fact, there aren’t a whole lot of names that have been mentioned after that. Some have speculated that Freddy Garcia could be available if the Yankees open the season with Andy Pettitte back in the rotation, but even if he is, he isn’t a name that should be linked with the Tigers. Roy Oswalt doesn’t sound like a realistic option at this point.
At some point — and maybe you have already — you have to ask yourself: Is what’s out there on the market really better than what’s in the system right now? And if it is, is it important enough to go get right now?
Bottom line: I’m not so sure Oliver’s struggles Wednesday make a trade any more likely than it was 24 hours ago. Drew Smyly will get his shot to answer against Nationals minor-league hitters tomorrow at noon, and Duane Below gets a crack at the Yankees on Sunday in Tampa. After that, the Tigers still have nine days of Grapefruit League games left, essentially two more turns through the rotation. Two turns provides ample chances for a pitcher to bounce back from one struggling outing.
That’s not to say a trade won’t happen. It’s certainly not unthinkable anymore. But using one start as a reason for it seems like an overreaction.
What we learned today: That inconsistent command Andy Oliver had last year might not completely be in the past, though it would be incomplete to grade it now.
For what it’s worth, Jim Leyland said after the game that he felt like he noticed something that could help out Oliver, and he passed it along to pitching coach Jeff Jones.
What to remember: Austin Jackson’s stolen base on Liam Hendriks’ first pitch to Brennan Boesch wasn’t called. He had the green light, and he wanted to test out leads and reading pitchers. He wants to get some work in on that between now and the end of camp, which could be a good sign for Tigers fans who wonder why he hasn’t stolen more bases.
Hey, it’s only Spring Training: Brennan Boesch, who was belting the ball earlier this spring, is now batting .211 in Grapefruit League play after going 0-for-2 Wednesday. Here’s guessing he will not do that come the regular season.