Nats Acquire Denard Span To Be New Center Fielder/Leadoff Man

So long, 6’9″ starting pitching prospect and 2011 first-rounder Alex Meyer. Mike Rizzo and the Nats shipped him to Minnesota for above-average center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span. (Bonus: Fangraphs loves the deal!)

This means a bunch of stuff:

– The new outfield is Span in center with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper on the corners. That’s good defense.

– Mike Morse is moving out of left field, probably to 1B, and Adam LaRoche is probably moving out period. I’m happy not to suffer Morse’s outfield defense any longer. I’d miss LaRoche’s glove at first, though, and his lefthanded power bat in the lineup. I’d miss everything about Adam LaRoche, actually.

– Because they’re not signing a big-money CF and probably not re-signing LaRoche, the Nats have that much more to spend on pitching.

– Werth won’t bat leadoff now, which is good, especially if it moves Harper to the heart of the order and ensures Danny Espinosa stays out of the two spot.

– Tyler Moore will be a depth guy, picking up spot starts in the outfield and at first base, as it should be.

About Span: He averages 3.2 WAR/year for his career, is 28 and signed through 2014 at less than $6 million per with a $9 million club option for ’15. That’s a lot less than the $75 million Atlanta gave B.J. Upton and whatever it is Michael Bourn is going to get.

Welcome to D.C., new friend. Nice move, Rizzo.

Update: Adam Kilgore does a great job examining all of the ramifications.

14 thoughts on “Nats Acquire Denard Span To Be New Center Fielder/Leadoff Man”

  1. Wow lot to take in here. I love pitching prospects, especially big power pitchers. I hate giving up Meyer especially a year after we gave up so much to get Gio.

    I’m not wild about the deal but trust Rizzo to make the right move.

  2. Sounds like the contract/player combo is what to be excited about. Loved me some ALR, his bat and glove carried us through Zim’s 3B struggles/DL stint. Rizzo though, gotta get behind him.

  3. I’ll take an everyday player that fills 2 needs (CF and leadoff) over a prospect with no experience over A ball any day of the week. I like 3 years of team control at a max cost of $21MM. Better than 5/75 for Upton or whatever Bourne is going to get.

  4. LaRoche had a career year this past year so its not certain he’ll even get close to it again. That said I’d agree to re-sign him and trade Morse for pitching prospects or a 5th starter.

  5. Why trade Beast at all? He’s got two years left on his current deal, is a fan favorite and 30 HR, .300 hitters don’t grow on trees.

    …And I finally learned the lyrics to “Take On Me”!

  6. Was anyone’s immediate reaction to this sheer excitement or did that hit when you read other peoples’ excitement on the internet? I saw the news and immediately shrugged my shoulders. It’s Denard Span.

    ’12 Nats leadoff hitter: .325 OBP, .744 OPS
    Span 5 year career: .357 OBP, .746 OPS

    So that’s more range in the outfield and a .032 bump in OBP at the cost of not being able to start Morse and LaRoche in the same everyday lineup and a 2011 1st round pitching prospect.

    Meh.

  7. Span is a clear upgrade over Morse in the OF. Morse vs. LaRoche at 1B is a wash. Morse could be dealt for something or the money that would’ve gone to LaRoche can be spent on something. And all it cost them was a pitcher who may or may not arrive in 2014.

    So I like it, but Span’s not good enough and Meyer’s got too much potential to really love it.

  8. Morse has 1 year left and has only had 1 season of .300 and 30. No guarantee he does it again. LaRoche did have a career year but his numbers across the board weren’t too much over his career average. I think you know with LaRoche you are going to get great defense and .260/25/90 which is a good fit with this team.

    The other benefit of Span is Morse isn’t in the OF. The OF of Span, Harper and Werth is really really good defensively.

    with all that said, I still love The Beast!

  9. They’re clearly better in the OF and they’ll be better elsewhere too (either via trading Morse or spending the LaRoche money), and all it cost was organizational pitching depth.

    Plus, Span’s contract is so team-friendly they’ll have money to spend even if re-sign LaRoche, which is my preferred outcome.

    Also not mentioned here is Nats CF prospect Brian Goodwin. If he’s ready and/or Span isn’t working out, they can turn to him in 2015, which is nice.

  10. I agree with the general sentiment that I’d rather have LaRoche at 1B and trade Morse, for reasons already stated.

    Still, GREAT move by Rizzo, and great point Jamie about the overpriced alternatives of BJ Upton and Bourn. Love this move.

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