The Washington Nationals have announced that they have acquired outfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins in return for minor league starting pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
The #Nationals today acquired OF Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for minor league RHP Alex Meyer.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) November 29, 2012
Span, 28, hit .283/.342/.395 with 71 runs scored an 17 stolen bases in 128 games last season. Perhaps most importantly, however, the centerfielder posted UZR/150 of 9.6, meaning the Nats acquired both a leadoff hitter and a true centerfielder in one deal.
Meyer, however, was quite a price to give up for an above average outfielder. The 22-year-old had a monster first professional season in 2012, posting a 10-6 record with a 2.86 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 129 innings between low and high Single-A. While this competition was arguably below, or on par, with what he faced every day while playing for Kentucky, the six foot nine hurler possesses incredible tools that may one day help him mold into a frontline starter in the MLB.
Mike Rizzo’s focus, however, is on the here and now. The Nationals had three major needs leading into this winter; a true centerfielder, a leadoff hitter, and another starting pitcher. They checked off two of those needs in just one move and it’s not even December yet.
The deal does have some deep implications, however, about what the team’s opening day lineup may look like. It was believed that if the Nats decided to make a move by adding an outfielder, that it would probably imply that the team would not look to re-sign Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winning first baseman Adam LaRoche. It is far more likely that the team will shift Harper to left field, move Mike Morse to first, and say thanks, but no thanks, their on-the-field leader from 2012.
LaRoche had a charmed 2012 season to be sure. The 32-year-old hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI, but at his age and the type of contract he is likely to demand now being on the free market, it just makes good business sense for Rizzo to say good bye.