Nationals Acquire Denard Span

In case you missed it, the Washington Nationals traded young fireballer Alex Meyer to the Twins for centerfielder Denard Span. A great deal for many reasons, for both sides.

First, from Minnesota’s side, they trade from strength and surplus in return for a sorely needed entity: a pitcher with high velocity and high upside. With Span out of the way, Ben Revere can move in to center and the leadoff spot, and the Twins won’t miss a beat. And, the Twins add a youngster who at worst projects to be a lights-out closer, at best becomes a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Looking at the deal from Washington’s perspective, a huge hole at the top of the lineup has been filled. Span is a lock to post a .350+ OBP, and, playing in the NL and under the aggressive Davey Johnson, likely to steal 20-30 bases. But the offense will be gravy compared to Span’s defense in centerfield — and further, Washington’s overall defense in the outfield. As of today, it appears that the Nats will field three centerfielders in the outfield: Span in center, Jayson Werth in right, and Bryce Harper in left. Assuming he isn’t traded, last year’s leftfielder Michael Morse moves to 1B, and the Nats can let Adam LaRoche walk away as a free agent. Or, they make a lowball offer to LaRoche and get him to sign because he wants to be part of a winner, and then they have the flexibility to trade Morse for yet another big piece.

This deal looks even better when you realize Span will cost the Nats “only” $11.25M for the next two years, and can keep him for a third if they pull the trigger on a $9M team option. That’s an absolute bargain for a player of Span’s caliber in his peak years — if you don’t believe it, look at what B.J. Upton just received from the Braves, and/or wait and see what thirtysomething centerfielder Michael Bourn gets when he signs later this winter.

By adding Span, the Nats now have Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore on the bench, and/or available as trade bait. Is it me or does it seem like the rich get richer? I guess that’s how it feels when one follows the outfielderless Mets.

Oh, did I mention that Span was born in Washington, D.C.?

Washington Nationals fans have to be very pleased with this deal. Mets fans, what can I tell you? I’m trying hard, but can’t envision a one-for-one deal that the Mets can make that would both fill two gaping holes and create flexibility to fill more holes. But maybe I’m not seeing the forest for the trees — post your notes in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. dansmith December 2, 2012 at 9:42 am
    I am hearing Dickey to Toronto for Arencebia and Gose. That would plug in two holes (C and OF).
    • Joe Janish December 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm
      Would you do that deal? I might, but not sure about Gose. To me he looks like another Carlos Gomez. Don’t get me wrong — right now, I’d take the real Carlos Gomez to play CF — but not sure it’s enough to get in return for R.A. I think I’d either want an arm coming back, or insist on Gose and D’Arnaud as the package.
  2. DaveSchneck December 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm
    Good trade for both teams, although you never know with those pitching prospects. I don’t think you can say “at worse” lights out closer. At worst, he could flop in the majors, but he definitely has “potential”. I would have liked the Mets to shoot for Span – proven, affordable, controllable for 3 yrs., filling both leadoff and CF holes – but I don’t think they could have gotten him straight up for Fulmer, and I would have dealt Niese for him unless Minny provided another player.
  3. T L S December 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm
    This is a horrible decision…he’ll be 29 in FEB, averages 1 HR per 100 at bats over his career…doesn’t anyone remember the previous CFs over the last 5 years that had speed but little power and are no longer here..11.25 million over 2 years for a singles hitter with some speed???…the emphasis should be on finding a better 8th hole in the lineup…more production from a catcher….
    • Joe Janish December 3, 2012 at 2:05 am
      The emphasis should be on finding a #8 hitter? Really? But not a #1, #4, #6, or #7? (I’m plugging David Wright into the #3 spot, and Ike Davis into the #5.)