November 29, 2012 in Nationals Trades
The Deal: Minnesota Twins trade CF Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for High-A SP Alex Meyer
Span is the center fielder/lead-off hitter the Nationals have been looking for the last couple of years. He's got very good speed and for his career is a 76% base stealer (74% last year). He doesn't hit for power, but did have 38 doubles last season in just over 500 AB's. He hit .283 last year with an on base percentage of .342 and a slugging percentage of .395, which was slightly below his career average. He hits lefties and righties equally well, with an OPS last year vs southpaws at .737 and against RHP's hit .739. One shocking split from last year for Span was his home vs road split. At home Span had an .881 OPS, on the road it fell to .593. Hopefully Span finds the confines of Nationals park as friendly as Target Field in Minnesota.
Span's greatest value though may come from his contract. Span is signed through 2014, with an option for 2015. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts Span is due to make $4.75 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014, and $9 million if his option is exercised in 2015. That is just $21.25 million for three years for a lower end top 10 centerfielder. Compare that to B.J. Upton who just signed a 5 year $75 million deal, and it is easy to see how much of a value Span is. Other CF's like Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino would all be looking at commitments north of $12 million a year, with Bourn's deal potentially costing $17 million over 5 years. Yes those players may be better than Span (though not consistently), but not when contracts are factored in.
The Nationals did have to give up a very promising prospect in pitcher Alex Meyer. Meyer was the Nationals first round pick, and compensation for losing Adam Dunn in the 2011 draft. He excelled in Low and High- A last year, and has the potential to be either a number 2 or 3 pitcher, with a worst case scenario of him being an effective back of the bullpen arm, given his power fastball.
Though a significant prospect, he was at least two years away from being major league ready, and like any prospect is not a guarantee. With the Nationals having control of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Ross Detwiler for at least the next three years, the Nationals could comfortably make this deal.
What this means for the Nationals:
This deal gives the Nationals a big upgrade in the outfield as Michael Morse will no longer be counted on out there. It also gives them a lead-off hitter who has good speed and on base abilities. Teaming him with Werth, Harper and Zimmerman at the top of the line-up gives the Nationals a very effective top of the order. Also by getting Span under a very affordable contract the Nationals have plenty of money to re-sign Adam LaRoche, and address their pitching needs.Span was also more preferable to a Bourn or Upton, 5 year deal because the Nationals have a good young centerfielder prospect in Brian Goodwin, who can be ready in 2-3 years.
This was a very smart play that helps the Nationals in both the short term with production and long term financially. Meyer is a good prospect, but he's a bit of a wild card. It was going to be a couple years before he was major league ready, even if everything went perfectly and it is conceivable that he could take a couple years to figure it out and be an effective starter. The Nationals now have great financial flexibility, and if they can re-sign LaRoche can move Morse to an AL team in need of a DH.