Nats cut ties with Lannan, Flores, Gorzelanny

Nats cut ties with Lannan, Flores, Gorzelanny
November 30, 2012, 11:00 pm
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The Nationals will elect not to tender contracts to left-handers John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny and catcher Jesus Flores before tonight's midnight deadline, officially cutting ties with two of the organization's longest-tenured players and the only remaining lefty in their bullpen.

The decisions to non-tender Lannan and Flores weren't surprises; neither figured into the club's plans for 2013 or beyond. The removal of Gorzelanny from the roster was more surprising given the lack of any other left-handers in the Nationals' current bullpen.

The moves aren't official yet, but a club source confirmed all are planned before midnight.

Lannan, who was drafted in 2005 out of Siena College and reached the big leagues two years later, is the Nationals' all-time leader in starts (134) and ranks second to Livan Hernandez in wins (42) and innings (783 2/3).

His standing within the organization dropped significantly this year, though, after the Nationals shipped the lefty to Class AAA Syracuse after going 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA and earning a $5 million salary through arbitration. Lannan initially requested a trade, but wound up spending the majority of the season in the minors, ultimately returning to make six starts for Washington down the stretch (he went 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA).

The Nationals could have kept Lannan in the organization for another season. He actually has one more minor-league option and could have again been stashed in Syracuse to serve as an expensive insurance policy in case of injury to another member of the rotation. But general manager Mike Rizzo, out of respect for the 28-year-old, let him instead become a free agent after failing to find a trade partner.

Flores was once thought of as the Nationals' long-term catching solution, but the former Rule 5 draft pick saw his promising career derailed by a major shoulder injury that sidelined him nearly two seasons.

Drafted away from the Mets in Dec. 2006 at the urging of Davey Johnson, who at the time served as an adviser to former GM Jim Bowden, Flores got another chance to play everyday this summer after starter Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury. But he struggled at the plate (hitting .213) and behind the plate (throwing out only 15 percent of basestealers) and wound up back on the bench after Rizzo traded for veteran Kurt Suzuki.

With Suzuki and a healthy Ramos back in 2013, plus the emergence of young catchers Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano, the Nationals had little need to keep Flores in the organization.

Gorzelanny was let go despite a productive season as a long man in the Nationals' bullpen. The 30-year-old, acquired from the Cubs in 2011 for three minor-leaguers to start for Washington, posted a 2.88 ERA in 45 appearances this season.

Ultimately, Gorzelanny's price tag -- he stood to make as much as $4 million through arbitration -- was too steep for a pitcher in his role.

The decision does leave the Nationals in a predicament, with zero left-handed relievers currently on the roster. They'll have to hope to either re-sign free agents Sean Burnett and/or Michael Gonzalez or acquire another lefty or two this winter.