The Mets announced this afternoon that they have signed free agent left-hander John Lannan to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
The 29 year-old Lannan pitched his first six years with the Washington Nationals before spending 2013 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. During Lannan’s first five seasons with the Nationals, he proved to be a solid-mid-rotation pitcher. His 4.00 ERA (and 103 ERA+) was enough to keep him consistently in the rotation. In 2011, he had his best season of his career, posting a 3.70 ERA, 4.28 FIP, and 4.24 xFIP, all career-bests. The net spring training, however, with a flux of new pitchers in the Washington rotation, he was shut out of the last slot in the rotation, relegated to Triple-A for most of the season.
The Phillies took a flier on Lannan last spring, signing him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with incentives to man a spot in the back-end of the rotation. He posted a 5.33 ERA, 4.37 FIP, and 4.71 xFIP over 74.1 innings bust, as is common with small sample sizes, those numbers are inflated by two bad starts at the end of his season in which he allowed a combined 12 runs. Lannan struck out 4.6 batters per nine innings last year, well below average, but that is not unusual for the ground ball pitcher, who has historically struck out four to five batters per nine. He had some ups and downs before those starts but was still pitching well. He missed about two months early in the season with a left quad tendon issue and his season ended in mid-August after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Depending on whether Lannan has an opt-out clause, the signing has two purposes. The first is to compete with, and provide insurance for Jenrry Mejia in spring training. If Lannan doesn’t have an opt-out clause, which is unlikely, he could also serve as insurance throughout the season and could eat innings for young pitchers like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero if the Mets are not in the playoff hunt, much like Daisuke Matsuzaka did last September.