Well hey! The Nationals address their hole in centerfield with Denard Span and the Twins get a strong young pitching prospect with legitimate upside in Alex Meyer, who is also enormous.

Not only do the Nats add a solid centerfielder, it also helps them all over the diamond at a reasonable cost. Slotting Span and his very affordable contract (under $11 million for the next two years, plus an option for a third at $9M) allows Washington to move Bryce Harper to left field and Michael Morse to first base, meaning Adam LaRoche is no longer in their plans.

Considering the huge contract B.J. Upton signed yesterday, this looks like a great move for a team looking to take another step closer to the World Series.

The Nationals certainly pay a significant price to obtain their new CF. Alex Meyer is a beast of a power arm, a 6’9 monster who spent 2012 dominating two levels of the minor leagues after a successful college career at Kentucky. Did I mention he’s huge? Because he is.

Prospect blog Bullpen Banter likes Meyer’s potential but thinks his shortcomings will force a move to the bullpen.

…his command and control will ever improve enough to allow him to start for more than a brief stretch. He can dominate the lower minors right now but the flaws in his game will get punished as he moves up.

Some view a relief prospect as something of a pariah though the contracts signed by free agent relievers in the last few weeks underscore the value of developing your own pen. Meyer’s continued dominance in the low minors suggests the Twins will allow him to keep starting until he proves he cannot. Strikeout pitchers aren’t exactly Minnesota’s standard operating procedure so it remains to be seen how they choose to screw up Meyer’s development.

The Nationals are more than willing to give up on a longer-term project in pursuit of continuing playoff glory with their current core. Bringing Span to the Beltway gives them a more traditional leadoff hitter than Jayson Werth, a high speed, high OBP player who can do all the little things Davey Johnson traditional hates. Should Johnson (awesomely) continue with Werth and Byrce Harper at the top of his lineup, Denard Span might slot nicely into the 8th spot, using his legs to make the inevitable pitcher bunt a more useful weapon.

Span is a good fielder but a player completely bereft of power, as his career .100 ISO and sub .400 slugging percentage for three years running indicate. He is not without value, especially on a Nationals team already flush with power hitters and a “win now” mandate.

B.J. Upton might be a better player but Span costs so much less, it only makes sense for the Nationals to go this route. Giving up a prospect who profiles as a reliever is a small price to pay for a cheap center fielder who can play every day…provided he can stay on the field. Span missed significant time in 2011 after a concussion resulting from a collision at the plate. A shoulder injury sustained diving for a ball cost him nearly a month in 2012.

The skills Span brings to the Nationals are skills they desperately needed. Not only does his acquisition give them flexibility and leverage this winter, it solidifies their defense as the game but inexperienced Bryce Harper is free to move to a corner spot where he rightly belongs. Really, it is hard to find fault in the deal for the Nationals. Even if Meyer sticks in the rotation and hits his ceiling as a number 2 starter, he likely won’t do so without two more years in the minor leagues.

Washington and their general manager Mike Rizzo were patient with Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Acquiring Span knocks a need off their list and leaves enough money free to pursue more pieces as the Nationals pursue a title with everything they have.

Comments (2)

  1. does Werth have a better arm than Harper?

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