Nationals demote left-hander John Lannan and his $5 million salary to the minor leagues

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UPDATE: It’s official, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Lannan has been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and Detwiler will open the year as the Nationals’ fifth starter.

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At the beginning of spring training John Lannan was rumored to be on the trading block and then when it became clear that Chien-Ming Wang wouldn’t be ready to start the season on the active roster because of a hamstring injury manager Davey Johnson all but named Lannan the Nationals’ fifth starter.

Those plans have apparently changed, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals will option Lannan to Triple-A and will likely go with Ross Detwiler as their No. 5 starter.

Kilgore calls it a “stunning decision” and it’s easy to see why, as Lannan is a 27-year-old veteran with 751 career innings and makes $5 million. Washington gave him the Opening Day start in both 2009 and 2010, and last season he threw 185 innings with a 3.70 ERA.

Expect the trade speculation surrounding Lannan to ramp up again.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.