Posted November 29, 2012

Nationals trade for Span has several ripple effects

Denard Span, Washington Nationals

Denard Span’s addition solves Washington’s quest for a centerfielder. (AP)

The Nationals finally pried centerfielder Denard Span away from the Twins on Thursday in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. The trade appears to be a solid win-win for both clubs and has plentiful implications on the market writ large.

*The Nationals have their true centerfielder. Washington general manager Mike Rizzo often speaks about the need for talent in the up-the-middle positions and, in particular, has longed for a natural centerfielder for a couple years now. Span, at last, is that guy. And the 28-year-old should be for three seasons: he’s owed only $11.25 million in 2013 and ‘14, with a $9 million option for 2015 (or a $500,000 buyout that’s not likely to be exercised).

Span is a true leadoff hitter thanks to a .357 career on-base percentage. That would be a notable improvement on Washington’s .325 mark in that lineup slot last year, which only ranked 17th in the majors; Jayson Werth, more commonly a middle-of-the-order hitter had a .388 OBP when batting first while all others had a .307. But the Nationals slugged 194 home runs last year, which ranked second in the National League, so they have enough thunder in the lineup (even without Adam LaRoche, as explained later) to compensate for the fact that Span has hit only nine in his last 351 games over the past three seasons.

Span is also very good defensively. According to the Fielding Bible, he scored a +55 Plus/Minus over the past two seasons while Washington’s centerfielders collectively were only +10 during that stretch. Importantly, Washington rated -21 in the corner outfield positions last year, but those spots should be solidified in 2013 if rightfielder Jayson Werth avoids breaking his wrist and Bryce Harper is able to establish himself in leftfield. Speaking of that . . .

*Bryce Harper is now a corner outfielder. Out of necessity, Harper made 86 starts in center last year, compared to 41 in right and six in left, but the converted catcher — though a fine runner with top-shelf hustle — never projected to be a long-term solution in centerfield. With Span on board, Harper is free to get used to one outfield position and, if he so chooses, add a few pounds of muscle to improve his power, even at the expense of a half-step of speed now that he won’t be expected to cover as much ground defensively.

*Adam LaRoche is less likely to return to D.C. Either LaRoche or Michael Morse won’t return, one would think, and the smart money is that Morse will be back given that he’s under contract for 2013 already and LaRoche is not. LaRoche is the better player, but at 33 he’s two years older and sure to command a hefty salary in the free agent market, while Morse is signed for a reasonable $6.5 million.

Before the trade for Span, Morse projected to log some time in leftfield, but the outfield is now full. Washington will hope Morse plays more like his 2011 self (31 homers, .910 OPS) than his 2012 version (18 homers, .791 OPS), especially since LaRoche hit 33 homers last year. Trading for Span and his affordable contract ought to leave room in the budget for LaRoche — rather than if the Nats signed B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn, for instance — with Morse becoming a trade chip. Still, the more likely scenario is that Morse is Washington’s Opening Day first baseman.

*The suitors for Michael Bourn are dwindling. Three NL East contenders needed centerfielders, and two have filled that hole in as many days, with the Braves signing B.J. Upton and the Nationals acquiring Span. That leaves the Phillies as the favorites to sign Bourn, with the Giants and Reds as the other clubs with stated needs for a centerfielder. According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, however, the Reds aren’t interested in Bourn. Then again, some other club with a less obvious need could step forward and make a push for Bourn — the game’s best defensive centerfielder — and simply move whomever its incumbent is to a corner outfield spot.

*The Twins continue rebuilding. Meyer was a first-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2011 and posted an impressive line for his first season of pro ball this past season: a 2.86 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.1 K/BB ratios over 129 innings split between Class A and High A ball. The 6-foot-9 righthander throws in the upper 90s with a great slider and projects as a top of the rotation starter. With Ben Revere ready to patrol centerfield, it made sense for Minnesota to part with Span as part of its rebuilding.

*The Wheeler-Beltran trade — but better. Span for Meyer is a one-for-one trade of outfielder-for-pitching prospect like the Mets swapping Carlos Beltran for Giants righthander Zack Wheeler at the 2011 deadline. This move, though, is more advantageous for the Nationals than that deal was for the Giants, as Washington will have Span likely for up to three years rather than up to three months.

Span, like Beltran at this point of his career, is not a superstar but an above-average everyday major leaguer, who in the past would have netted two or three medium prospect rather than one high-end player. This idea of quality over quantity is risky when teams are only getting one player in return, but the greater potential makes it worth it.

 – By Joe Lemire

13 comments
tommy2
tommy2

the twins call it rebuilding but in truth its all about money, the twins are a welfare organization as are the vikings , they beg tax payers to foot the bill and embarrass us on and off the field , the wilfs and pohlads are low class puke owners beggging non stop for tax dollars that should go for much needed projects .  only fat a-ss worthless couch potatoes that dont work or pay taxes support a trshy org. like the twins and vikings, both teams are welfare recipients,players included.

sheepdog
sheepdog

Span was the go-between standard hope of theses troubled years of the Twins you knew he couldn't really stay and hang out Tory's successor and  who was Kirby's, and now we have Ben I think its only fitting that what I think of all those is that they all have a passion for the game that shows. Something that few truly posses, and is usually only found in talent that hasn't had the easiest road to stardom. Denard is a star and you Nationals fans got a truly passionate center fielder and lead off guy, I just hope Mr. Lemire is correct when he states its a win-win. As a Twins fan through bad and good we are due to be blessed by a master stroke of Terry Ryan and maybe just a little luck!  

PaulaMinell
PaulaMinell

I refuse to read this article.  The cover image (not the image at the top of this page) is Alexi Casilla, not Denard Span.  If you can't tell the difference between THOSE two, I don't trust your ability to write.

NickPunto
NickPunto

Bahaha I love the home page image of Alexi Casilla not Denard Span. Hopefully the Twins can put Casilla on a Plane to Washington instead of Span and the Nats won't notice....

FaridRushdi
FaridRushdi

I think that's an unfair comparison of Morse's 2011 and 2012 seasons.

 

Sure, Morse "only" hit 18 homers last season and saw his OPS drop, but he was on the DL for the first third of the season and didn't get his power back until mid-season. Base his 2012 stats on a full season and they would look like this: .291-27-93.

 

No one in DC would complain if Morse (or LaRoche) produced like that in 2013.

DanielS.Adkins
DanielS.Adkins

 @PaulaMinell Sorry, pal, that's Denard. #2. Lefty. Hit leadoff here at Target Field. Nice try. Go to bed.

mnkhouri
mnkhouri

 @PaulaMinell good point.  except it is possible the writer has no power over the images used in his articles. but that is a silly error.

Weasel Puss
Weasel Puss

 @NickPunto

 Just so you know, Casilla is now with Baltimore....which is probably a good thing for us Twins fans.

mnkhouri
mnkhouri

 @FaridRushdi 

excellent point.  by the way..... i missed your writings on BR.  You should join the gang on FederalBaseball.

-Mike

PaulaMinell
PaulaMinell

 @mnkhouri I hadn't thought about that.  I blog and get to choose my own images, and I forget that not everyone does.  I'm still up in arms as my opinion of Span is is so much greater than my opinion of Casilla as players.

FaridRushdi
FaridRushdi

 @mnkhouri Thanks, Mike!

That writing-for-free stuff at Bleacher Report got me a job with my local newspaper out here in Idaho last year.

 

Got to go back home to DC in May (first time in 30 years) and spent two days with the Nationals, up in the press box and down in the locker room. Wrote some stories about it. Got to see Bryce Harper's first homer and thoroughly enjoyed meeting Mark Zuckerman  and the bunch.

 

For years my wife said, "Stop writing those stories for free. It'll never get you anywhere!"

 

Hah!

 

You'll never know how cool it is to pick up a phone and say, "Farid Rushdi with the Idaho State Journal calling for Tommy Lasorda" and getting through (I wrote a series about the history of baseball here in Pocatello and he began his managerial career here).

 

I got to tell you though, that night I sat in the press box I was surrounded by Mark, Bill Ladson, Amanda Comack and Adam Kilgore, I didn't feel like such a big deal. Those guys are professionals.

 

Take care and thanks again. Farid.

mnkhouri
mnkhouri

 @PaulaMinell span does seem to be a great guy based on how much twins fans appreciate him.  that makes us nats fans excited about him joining the team.  I hope alex meyer has a great career in minnesota.

mnkhouri
mnkhouri

@FaridRushdi Well that is great news, and i can't but help feel a little envious. A great story but well deserved. Congratulations.