Was the John Lannan signing a smart one?

John LannanYesterday, it was announced that the Mets signed John Lannan to a minor-league deal. The Mets starting rotation has already been filled out by the signing of Bartolo Colon, and it’s safe to say that Mets fans would be outraged if Lannan had been chosen to fill out the rotation instead of a pitcher like Colon. However, that doesn’t mean that a pitcher like Lannan doesn’t have a role with the Mets.

The team could use a pitcher that they could stash in Triple-A until somebody gets hurt. Last year, Carlos Torres filled in for whoever was hurt. Torres performed admirably as a starter considering the circumstances; however, his services would have been better used as a reliever. This year, the Mets can’t rely on Torres as the fill-in. Every now and then Torres can make a spot start, but if any of the projected starting pitchers goes down with an injury, the Mets are going to need a pitcher who can be in the rotation for multiple starts in a row. Lannan fits perfectly in that role.

The profile for minor-league stashes seems to be guys who had major-league success for a very short amount of time — maybe only two or three seasons — and then the wheels fell off. Pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Aaron Harang also come to mind when talking about this profile.

Below are some Oliver Projections:

Name K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
Harang 6.39 3.27 1.19 4.58 4.49 0.7
Lannan 4.70 3.33 0.91 4.44 4.56 0.5
Matsuzaka 6.70 3.74 1.48 4.87 5.12 0.2

Oliver projections aren’t the best, but they’re good for giving a range for how players could perform. Lannan doesn’t really do anything all that well. His career strikeout to walk ratio is 1.40, and for a guy who doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, that’s pretty bad. Lannan relies on keeping the ball in the park, which is pretty easy to do at Citi Field. Harang may have been a better option, however given Harang’s track record he may not have been keen on the idea of being stashed in the minors and probably would have had an opt-out clause written into his contract.

Matsuzaka was another option, but he only gets marginally better strikeouts than Lannan and he has a home run problem.

This signing is not a big deal. When Lannan was an everyday pitcher he was mediocre at best, so there isn’t anything indicating that he has a lot of potential. Lannan’s going to be a good substitute in the event that someone is out for a period of time. This is a smart signing that could really come in handy down the road.

15 comments for “Was the John Lannan signing a smart one?

  1. January 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

    It seems like only yesterday that some Mets fans were horrified that the Mets didn’t sign Lannan and let him go to the Phillies. I guess the fact that he gave up a 5.33 ERA in 74.1 IP last year in the majors left him available again.

    This is the type of guy who’s available on an NRI and in a vacuum I have no issue with this signing. His career FIP and xFIP numbers are pretty much the same as Matsuzaka’s. My take is that Dice-K has upside beyond his peripherals while Lannan will be lucky to improve much on last year’s MLB numbers.

    But when your goal is for the guy to not throw a single pitch in the majors — does it really make any difference?

    Also, I don’t care how many guys a pitcher whiffs — if he’s got a 1.40 K/BB ratio, that’s a huge problem.

    • Jerry Grote
      January 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

      The point of signing a Lannan is that his standard deviation is nil. He’s a #5, never has been much more than that, never will be.

      I suppose he provides downside protection, not upside potential, and for that I guess I’m saying feh. If he succeeds in any fashion, he’ll be a 95-105 ERA+ #5 pitcher. That has real value and represents a bonus over nearly every other team in the NL.

      So from the perspective of what he provides, he is downside protection against having to start Montero/Mejia. It’s not about the upside potential of Harang or – gulp, gah! – Dice K.

      • January 19, 2014 at 11:46 am

        Last year in the NL, there were only 45 starters who threw at least 100 IP and had a 95 ERA+ or greater – so if Lannan could do that he would be much, much more than a #5 SP. He’s done that three times in his career:

        2008 – 182 IP, 110 ERA+
        2009 – 206.1 IP, 109 ERA+
        2011 – 184.2 IP, 103 ERA+

        Unfortunately, over his last two years in the majors, Lannan has 107 IP and a 79 ERA+ — essentially what Jake Westbrook did last year

        Interestingly, the Mets had four of the 45 SP with 100+ IP and a 95 or greater ERA+ in the NL last year.

        • Jerry Grote
          January 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm

          as always, the devil’s in the details.

          Before you go quoting his “last two years”, let’s all realize that last year outside of two starts that amounted to 3 innings (in the beginning of the year, and the end), his ERA was 4.17.

          And that before he got into August – when he was injured – his ERA for 2013 was 4.10.

          His ERA for 2012 was 4.13.

          His lifetime ERA (including those three starts in August last year) is 4.12.

          He’s got problems with his wheels, and that’s pretty destructive for a pitcher. I mean, his LEFT quad was shot earlier in 2013 and the final straw was a LEFT knee injury. He’s probably done, given that he’s a lefthander and all.

  2. Chris F
    January 19, 2014 at 9:29 am

    My feeling is that it’s not news at all, not good or bad, but indifferent.

  3. amazin
    January 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Maybe he’s a lefty in the BP. Many marginal starters become above average set-up guys. An option to Rice and Edgin isn’t bad.

  4. Jim OMalley
    January 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

    He is a lefty with starting experience in the NL east. He is only 29 and he is from Mineola. Maybe Viola can help him. I like the signing.

  5. Jim OMalley
    January 19, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Oh hey.. we signed Quintanilla too.

  6. TexasGusCC
    January 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Last year, didn’t Lannan sign in June? Also, this year the Mets have deGrom, Montero, and Syndergaard ready soon. So, I don’t follow…

  7. Joe Vasile
    January 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I have no problem with bringing Lannan in as a competitor for a 5th starter. In previous years (11-13) signing a guy like Lannan meant he was probably going to be on the 25-man roster to start the year. Now there’s no guarantee that he’ll play, which is progress, which is nice. Have to imagine, though, whether they’ll consider using him as a long reliever/2nd lefty in the bullpen/spot starter if he doesn’t make the rotation. Kinda like the 2014 version of Darren Oliver.

  8. Name
    January 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Sort of unrelated, but thought this was interesting.

    Lannan and Pelfrey have pretty similar career stats. Pelfrey more innings and better SO/BB rate, but Lannan bests him in everything else. Even last year their rate stats were pretty similar.

    And Pelfrey gets 2/11 guaranteed while Lannan gets a minor league deal… Is Lannan that much of a head case?

  9. Chris F
    January 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Maybe wrong place, wrong time. Pelfrey was so-so on a crap team, whereas Lannan was most recently on competitive teams (as for Philly, they at least believed that), where being so so doesn’t register so well. Context seems to matter.

  10. Metsense
    January 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Signing a pitcher like Lannan to a NRI contract is a no brainer. The problem is when the no brainer, Collins and his sidekick Warthan, actually use Lannan instead of one of the young arms. Brian is right that the goal is for him not to throw a major league pitch and he is what JG correctly terms “downside protection”.

  11. Joe Gomes
    January 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    When the Mets were horrified of Lannan going to the Philthies, the Mets had no pitching. Now Lannan will just get in the way of Mejia and Montero. You know Terry, even if the kid is pitching lights out, he wants to always go with the veteran.

    Last year Collins went with Cowgill after saying that the job was basically Valdespin’s. Then he played Cowgill, then he went with Ankiel before finally going with Lagares.

    Give him Lannan and Collins will find a way to shelf Mejia and pitch Lannan as the 5th starter. Mistake by Sandy.

    • Name
      January 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Actually Collins named Cowgill the starting CF at the end of Spring Training. Less than a week later, he was platooning him with Kirk/Valdespin.

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