September 1, 2014

Washington Nationals trade for Denard Span

NATIONALS SURRENDER 2011 FIRST ROUND PICK ALEX MEYER IN DEAL

The Washington Nationals Thursday acquired the “dynamic” center fielder GM Mike Rizzo has coveted really since he was appointed GM of the team.

In a trade with the Minnesota Twins, the Nats receive Denard Span, 29 in February, a left-handed hitting centerfielder with terrific defensive instincts. The Nats sent Alex Meyer, the No. 23 overall pick in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft.

Span is a career .284/.357/.389 hitter over five seasons (589 games) with the Twins. He actually has better numbers against left-handed pitchers than righties, hitting .293/.374/.398 in 344 games. For his career, he’s stolen bases at a 76.2 percent clip (90-for-118).

Span missed 92 games in 2011 with concussion symptoms, but returned healthy in 2012 to play 128 games, hitting .283/.342/.395 in 568 at bats. Span is under contract through 2014 on a five-year, $16.5 MM contract he signed with the Twins, with a team option for 2015.

In a conference call with reporters, Rizzo extolled the virtues of Span’s defensive capabilities.

With Span in center field, Bryce Harper will move to a corner outfield slot with Jayson Werth in the other position. That leaves the Nats in a quandary with what to do with Michael Morse. The slugger is under contract for another season, but it seems the only position he would qualify for now is at first base, where Adam LaRoche excelled last season for the club. LaRoche is a free agent this off-season, and while the Nats have had discussions with LaRoche, the player and his representatives are exploring their options.

What is crystal clear is that the team cannot keep both Morse and LaRoche on the roster.

Meyer, 22, was one of the Nationals’ top pitching prospects. The 6-foot-9 right-hander went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 2012 with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. Many industry scouts think Meyer’s lack of a MLB-quality third pitch, plus the added burdens of his size and repeatability issues, have Meyer destined for a big league career in the bullpen, but there’s no doubt he has an MLB-quality arm.

Alex Meyer - Winston-Salem Dash v. Potomac Nationals, 8/12/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Meyer – Winston-Salem Dash v. Potomac Nationals, 8/12/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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