GM says Nationals “are not actively shopping” John Lannan

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Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported earlier this week that John Lannan is a strong candidate to be traded before Opening Day, naming the Red Sox, Tigers, and Astros are teams interested in the Nationals left-hander.

Today general manager Mike Rizzo responded to that report, telling Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that the Nationals have indeed gotten “several calls” about Lannan recently, but “we are not actively shopping him.”

Of course, it’s not as if Rizzo would ever say “yup, we’re trying to unload him as soon as possible” and ultimately even if he’s telling the truth that wouldn’t preclude the Nationals from getting an offer they liked and pulling the trigger immediately.

It’ll be interesting to see if some team is willing to part with a quality prospect for Lannan, because while his results so far have been decent (4.00 career ERA in 128 starts) his strikeout rate of 4.7 per nine innings is awful, his walk rate of 3.4 per nine innings is pretty bad too, and he’s making $5 million this season with another raise likely for 2013 via arbitration.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.