The Washington Nationals are not backing down from their crystal clear concern of addressing an upgrade in the middle of the outfield. On Monday multiple media outlets reported that the Nats have been talking with the Minnesota Twins about centerfielder and leadoff man Denard Span.
The 27-year-old has missed the last 36 games while rehabbing from a serious concussion. The Twins are 28-18 without Span in the starting lineup, which may lead the team to be able to envision a future without him. In just 56 games this season, the speedy outfielder has hit .294/.361/.385 with a strong 9.4 walk percentage.
In 220 less games, Span is clearly a much more polished leadoff hitter than other potential outfield option Michael Bourne. His career on base average is .366, higher than any total Bourne has accounted for in nearly five seasons. That on base percentage can be triggered to both his strikeout rate (12.2), as well as his walk percentage (10.0) effortlessly trumping Bourne’s strikeout rate (19.5) and walk percentage of (8.7).
The discussions for this potential deal could be difficult for Rizzo. The Nats general manager robbed Minnesota last year by snaring catching prospect Wilson Ramos from the Twins for unpredictable closer Matt Capps. The Twinkies will be extra cautious in evaluating whether the time is right to give up on Span, seeing as they don’t want the same organization stealing important pieces, again.
Ken Rosenthal is already implying that Minnesota won’t accept a deal revolving around Ian Desmond which means a Desmond and Todd Coffey/Henry Rodriguez swap is assumed to be off the table. Minnesota has expressed interest in Tyler Clippard’s effectiveness but Drew Storen’s youth has already been proclaimed off limits from the Nats.
I have a hard time believing Minnesota is going to accept just Clippard straight up for Span. They’ve been there and done that. Some appealing prospect like Derek Norris will presumably be added to sweeten the transaction.
My opinion is that Rizzo has finally come to the conclusion that 39 one-run games is a justifiable a reason to shakeup this lineup. If a deal goes through it will be because Johnson has calculated a risk that adding help to lineup via subtracting from the bullpen will be a cost effective strategy.
By no means is Tyler Clippard a Matt Capps. Clippard’s stuff is going to be solid around baseball for a good chunk of time, and if Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman weren’t struggling at the plate, the Nationals would most likely stand pat. The Span move and another splash during the winter offseason may very well setup the Nationals in a pretty place to start 2012 though.
The old Washington Nationals (or other unnamed DC franchises) perhaps would’ve already made the move for Bourne. After all, the Gold Glove award and All-Star appearance do shine like glitter in a career statistic box. But Denard Span’s offense is valued at a higher rate to me and to somebody influential in the front office. As long as the other piece with Clippard isn’t substantial, I think Span could become the de facto leadoff guy for most of this decade.