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Nationals get Denard Span from Twins for pitching prospect Alex Meyer

Nov 29, 2012, 4:43 PM EDT

Denard Span Getty Images

Denard Span has been linked to the Nationals in trade rumors dating back to mid-2011 and the Twins finally pulled the trigger today, sending the 28-year-old center fielder to Washington for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.

Span fits what the Nationals were looking for both offensively and defensively, as he’s a prototypical leadoff man with good on-base skills and speed who covers plenty of ground in center field. This year he hit .283 with a .342 on-base percentage in 128 games and Span has a career OBP of .357. He’s under team control through 2015 at reasonable prices, making $20.25 million over the three seasons.

Meyer was the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Kentucky and the 6-foot-9 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball had a strong pro debut this year, throwing 129 innings with a 2.86 ERA and 139/45 K/BB ratio between two levels of Single-A. He’s certainly not MLB-ready yet, but could be ready at some point in 2014 and the Twins have been desperate to find some hard-throwing starters with top-of-the-rotation potential.

Span will take over as the Nationals’ center fielder and leadoff man, allowing Bryce Harper to play a corner spot full time and perhaps signaling the end of Adam LaRoche‘s time in Washington. Ben Revere will replace Span as the Twins’ center fielder and will likely get every chance to become Minnesota’s leadoff man despite a .319 career on-base percentage though age 24.

Note: For my much longer, Twins-centric view of the trade, click here.

  1. meadowlark89 - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    About time the Twins get some pitching, gonna miss Span though.

    • dcfan4life - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:59 PM

      They got pitching that while looking promising could be around a year away from the majors. This year will still be a struggle for the Twins. However this is great for the Nats to get a true leadoff man. Morse will move to first, so the Nats wont miss much with the departure of LaRoche which this trade may ensure. Starting lineup should be as follows,

      Denard Span CF
      Bryce Harper LF
      Ryan Zimmerman 3B
      Michael Morse 1B
      Jayson Werth RF
      Ian Desomd SS
      Danny Espinosa 2B
      Wilson Ramos C
      Pitcher Spot

      Pretty Formidable offensively and defensively to go with arguably the best pitching staff in the NL. The Nats are primed for a repeat division title and World Series Run.

  2. hansob - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Span is different than BJ Upton, but he’s a better defensive CF’er and a better OBP guy. If Upton is worth $15M over 5, then Span is worth at least $35-$40M over 3. He’s signed for $20M over 3 years ($11.25/2 with a $9M option). That’s $15M+ of excess value… and the best they could do was a guy who is a borderline top 100 prospect?

    • kopy - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      At least it’s not the Drew Storen they were chasing after last year. The Twins successfully tempered our expectations to make this seem comparatively much better.

      • natstowngreg - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        Perhaps, but Storen for Span was an unrealistic expectation last summer. Rizzo wasn’t going to make that deal.

        Still, this could turn out well for the Twins. Meyer got good reviews for his work in the minors and AFL this year, and he will probably be more than a “borderline top 100 prospect for next season. And, as Aaron noted, he can be the kind of power arm the Twins need desparately.

  3. psuravens19 - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Good move for the Nats… I was hoping the O’s would send Matusz or Tillman to Minn. for him.

  4. Ben - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    The Twins have three starting pitchers for 2013. Three. (depth chart, for those curious–http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/team/depth_chart/index.jsp?c_id=min)
    Why did the Twins think trading one of their few chips for a pitcher years away from the majors was a good idea when they have such a massive hole in the very short term?
    Sometimes I wonder why I’m a fan of this team. It might work in the long run, but you need warm bodies to take the mound every 5th day.

    • kopy - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      You’re being generous. Diamond is really the only certainty in next year’s rotation.

      • Ben - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:13 PM

        I’m counting on more scoreless innings out of Drew Butera.

    • schrutebeetfarms - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      They are years away from contending. A mid level pitcher does no good now.

      • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:01 PM

        This is exactly right. Without things falling together for several more pitchers in a way that almost inconceivable, the Twins were never going to contend in 2013. They need to stock the organization with arms, and this was a good start.

        And people thinking the Twins should have received more in return should ask themselves honestly what a 30 year old CF with historic injury issues, baserunning problems, and no power is really worth in this market. I’m not slamming Span – he’s one of the better lead off hitters in the game today, and he’s still significantly better than average CF, but looking honestly at his weak spots and it becomes clear that the Twins were never going to get a MLB-ready #1 or #2 starter for him (which it seems people were expecting).

        The Twins need to build for 2015. This trade is the way to start doing that. I hope they’re not done.

      • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:07 PM

        Sorry, Span will be 29 next season. He’s not 30.

      • Ben - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM

        No, and no one pretends they’re contending. They’re 3-5 years away from contention, if everything breaks right. But even the worst team in baseball needs 5 bodies to take the mound every day. They can’t provide that between their major and minor league rosters.

      • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:49 PM

        They just got 4.75 million dollars more to use to pick up another pitcher. They cobbled together 5 guys last season, they’ll do it again. And they’re certainly not done getting pitching with the Meyer-Span trade, so I don’t see any reason for concern that they won’t have a starting rotation ready to go by February. (Nor, regrettably, do I see much reason to think that it’ll will be much better than a mediocre rotation unless, as I noted above, things fall together in a way that is almost inconceivable).

  5. Stiller43 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    How does that signal the end of laroche? He doesnt play the outfield…im confused

    • kkolchak - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:09 PM

      This likely means Morse will be moved to first base, unless he is also traded.

      • rg036 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:14 PM

        It will signal the end of Laroche because Harper will transition to LF and Morse will move back to 1st thus showing the door to LaRoche and his future with Nats. His problem is he is commanding 3 years at age 33 coming off a peak season. I predict next season to be a lower season for him

    • rg036 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      It will signal the end of Laroche because Harper will transition to LF and Morse will move back to 1st thus showing the door to LaRoche and his future with Nats. His problem is he is commanding 3 years at age 33 coming off a peak season. I predict next season to be a lower season for him

      • natslady - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:21 PM

        I don’t think so. Rizzo already said “several clubs” were inquiring for Morse. He will go for prospects. Farm system is getting a bit thin other than the top, e.g., Rendon, Goodwin, Giolito.

      • natslady - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        Morse made some comments on Twitter about not being “here” in the future. Could have meant 2014, of course, since he will be a free agent after 2013. OTOH, LaRoche is going to Davey’s charity golf tournament and Morse isn’t. Just trying to read the tea leaves…

      • natstowngreg - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:18 PM

        I agree that Morse is not part of the Nats’ longer-term plans. Not only because he will start commanding much bigger bucks after 2013, but because he’s not exactly a kid. Oh, and BTW, the Nats have a promising young 1B in Tyler Moore, and a promising young 3B in Anthony Rendon (who could move Ryan Zimmerman to 1B). So Rizzo has several options at 1B. It’s one of those nice problems to have.

        Still, it’s too bad if LaRoche prices himself out of the Nats’ plans. He seemed to fit perfectly with the team’s needs for a LH power bat, defensive support for the other infielders, and a good clubhouse presence. I would miss him.

  6. ad0330 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    That’s all we get?

    • natslady - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:29 PM

      That’s all we had to give? I LIKE IT! Saw Span play in 2011 when he was getting past the concussion and was impressed.

  7. ad0330 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Guess the twins are throwing in the towel for 2013

  8. Stiller43 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Ah, thanks guys. They perhaps could have added that one sentence to clear up why they thought that.

  9. kkolchak - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Smart move for the Nats. They get a decent MLB starting position player who is under team control for three more years for a A-ball level prospect who will likely not be ready to pitch at the MLB level until at least late 2014. If Meyer ends up relegated to the bullpen, which a number of scouts have predicted, the trade is even better for them.

  10. kopy - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    Revere is only 24, so maybe he can be the Twins’ director of baseball operations next year.

  11. thebadguyswon - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Wow…guess its just me, but I see this as a win for Minnesota. Span is nothing special and Meyer could be a solid #2 starter.

    • kopy - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:37 PM

      Span is a young, cheap player with a solid OBP and great defense at a premium position.

      • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:05 PM

        Span is 30 – so not young by any stretch of the imagination. He’s got a heck of an injury history, as well. And he’s a disaster on the basepaths, which diminishes his speed as a plus significantly.

        Span’s a solid player and has good numbers leading off, but it’s not like he’s all upside by any stretch of the imagination.

      • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:06 PM

        Sorry, Span is 28 (29 next season), not 30.

    • natslady - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:44 PM

      “Could” is the operative word. Meyer is tall and has trouble repeating his delivery, like some other tall pitchers. He won’t be ready until 2014 at the earliest, if he corrects his mechanical issues. Nats are in win-now mode, and just saved a bunch of money not going for Bourne. If Meyer pans out, then it’s a win-win. But, good as Werth was in the lead-off spot, when his wrist is fully healed and his power comes back, you want him lower in the order. So we can afford to trade Morse and keep ALR’s lefty bat. Plus you didn’t want Harper in CF forever. This solves two problems and gives the Nats an outstanding outfield.

    • kkolchak - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Meyer is very raw…he MAY top out as a No. 2 starter, or he might end up as a bullpen arm. He also has only one year of pro ball under his belt. This trade could eventually work out for both sides, but for the next couple of years it’s the Nats who will benefit from having a major need addressed at the MLB level.

  12. paint771 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Solid move by both teams, although I think Minnesota might have sold a bit low – they probably could have held out for the Nats to throw in a middle inning reliever or AAAA infielder or something.

    Still, while this is indeed throwing in the towel in some respects for 2013 for the Twins and that’s gotta be discouraging for fans, at this point, why not? This is a damn near 100 loss team two years running – it really is time to pull an Astros and blow it up, rather than limp along hoping for divine intervention or something. It’s just not a team you can “fill holes” on or nibble around the edges. I think you gotta move Mauer, Morneau and Willingham – who ain’t getting any younger and will not be productive players by the time the Twins are ready to contend again. So what’s the point of hanging on to them? Their value is likely not going to go up substantially, but for all three could crash at any time. So get your hands on as many high-upside prospects as you can, draft well, and by 2015 or 2016 the twinkies could rise again.

  13. unshavenjunk - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    I thought the Twins were supposed to be the farm system for the Yankees not the Nationals, first Ramos now Span–this guy better pan out better than Capps did

    • natstowngreg - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:28 PM

      Span is 28. He is no longer a prospect. This time, the Nats were the team trading the prospect.

  14. parasonic - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    could still move Morse and have Tyler Moore play first. I would rather have Bryce play RF with his arm but Werth’s arm is good too. gonna be a great team if they can stay relatively healthy.

    really hope they don’t get cute and move Lombo.

  15. dkphilly1122 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Rumors I heard were they will sign Laroche and Morse will be traded because he is gonna be due a pay raise for serioussssssss money I believe after this year, so trade him now for some good young prospects. He is at the bottom of the list for raises under Strasburg, and Bryce who will obviously get a boatload of money over the next few years as they are arbitration eligible. Just what I read, but I am a Phillies fan so who knows how true it really is. Not a bad deal for the Nats though, they will need whatever help they can get once the Phillies pull the trigger within two weeks on a few moves…..if not sooner.

  16. sisqsage - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Another possible angle: Angel Pagan is asking way too much in FA and the Nats moved onto this deal.

    • kkolchak - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      Eh, I think this was Rizzo’s plan all along. He’s coveted Span for a couple of years and was able to get him at a reasonable price.

  17. crisisjunky - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Meyer is one of my favorite prospects, but bottom line, gotta trust the Riz.
    This will now be one of the great outfields in the N.L., excepting of course, Heyward/Upton/Upton ;)
    Rizzo is like the Bruce Bochy of the offseason.

  18. jonrox - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    As a Reds fan, I’m really disappointed by this trade. Span is exactly what the Reds need, but we’re too focused on wasting all of our talent and money on the bullpen.

    • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      I would have loved a trade with the Reds, but I won’t complain about this. I think Atlanta was the Twins best option, frankly…

  19. bambam4 - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Span has a very low baseball IQ, especially on the bases. I do not see this as a loss for the Twins.

    • kkolchak - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      Define this so-called “Baseball IQ.”

    • dlambrecht - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      I don’t think this is true. Yes, he’s a poor baserunner. What else doesn’t he do well (and remember, hitting for power isn’t IQ, so don’t try to count that)? He’s got exceptional plate discipline and he’s a much better than average CF (including + speed). No one was claiming that Span is a 5 tool HOF caliber player, but the claim “very low baseball IQ” is without merit whatsoever.

      • natslady - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:04 PM

        Werth, who is Davey’s “resident genius” (seriously!) and one of the smartest baserunners I’ve seen, will help Span on that. In his interview, Span sounded energized and excited (beyond the usual for a play who just got traded), and said he was “upping his game” to be an All-Star. He also said he “didn’t want to get in the way” of the great players around him. A nice mixture of confidence and humility.

  20. tmohr - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Span’s career home/road splits:

    Humpdome: 314/398/451
    Target: 311/379/422
    Everywhere else: 260/330/349

    Factor in Nats Park being neutral, and despite being cheap, he’d better be Tris Speaker in center field.

  21. pariseinminnesotabichez - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    Finally, this opens the door for Revere to actually command this outfield…. Go Twins!

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