The Washington Nationals reportedly coveted outfielder Denard Span during the 2012 season. A deal made sense for both teams, as the Nationals needed a center fielder and the Minnesota Twins had two — Span and Ben Revere. Span seemed on the verge of moving at the trade deadline in July, but the trigger never got pulled and he stayed with the Twins until the end of the season.
With the deadline pressure off and the offseason in full swing, the parties finally made a trade happen Thursday, when the Twins sent Span to the Nats for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. One for one. A good, ol' challenge trade.
Span hit .283/.342/.395/ with 17 stolen bases and great defense in 128 games for the Twins in 2012. The Nats wanted a true leadoff guy and center fielder. Span is it. And his salary is cheap: $4.75 million next season, $6.5 million in 2014 and a $9 million team option in '15. His affordability, reporter Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes, will allow the Nats to pursue another front-line starting pitcher in the free-agent market. And it could have an impact on contract talks with Adam LaRoche, which would tip over other dominoes:
The Span trade obviously shapes the entire offseason. LaRoche re-signing unlikely. Morse to first. One starter, bullpen help, Viera.
— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) November 29, 2012
As far as who's going back to Minnesota, Kilgore calls Meyer — a 6-foot-9 right-hander — a flame-throwing beast.
Meyer was a first-round pick in 2011 who struck out 139 batters in 129 innings and finished with a 2.86 ERA for two Class A teams in '12. He also pitched in the Futures Game in Kansas City. As long as he flowers into a major leaguer with similar results, he's just what the Twins will need in the coming seasons.
Minnesota didn't need Span and Revere, who both are capable of making the most spectacular of plays on defense. But neither hits for power. Kind of redundant. Revere was a .326 hitter over 1,500-plus minor-league at-bats, and he hit .294 with 40 steals in his second full season in '12. But it's hard to imagine him being a better offensive player than Span in the long run. The Twins always seemed bent on trading Span, who does have a history of concussions and other injuries. That aside, he might be the one to keep.
But the Twins needed to add a pitcher like one with Meyer's pedigree. And if he's a No. 2 starter or better, the Span challenge trade is going work out for them.
And if Span is the leadoff hitter on a World Series champion, the Nats got what they needed, too.