The Washington Nationals may have finally taken care of their center field and leadoff problems by trading with the Minnesota Twins for Denard Span. Washington sent one of their top minor league pitchers in Alex Meyer to Minnesota to get Span.
The Nationals have used 32 men in center field since coming to Washington in 2005. In 2012, Washington began the season with Rick Ankiel playing center before Bryce Harper was called up from the minors in April and took over. Harper played 139 games and earned NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Before Ankiel and Harper, Washington had used such names as Roger Bernadina (who is still with the team) Nyjer Morgan, Lastings Milledge and Nook Logan. All four of them were good defensively, but did not get it done at the plate or on the bases. This was one of the reasons why Harper was penciled in to play center though he had never done it before. The Nationals wanted to get his bat in the lineup without benching right fielder Jayson Werth or left fielder Michael Morse. Center field was the only place they could put Harper and do this.
Span is 28 and a five-year veteran. He appeared in 128 games in 2012 and batted .283 with four home runs and 41 RBI. His on base percentage was .342. Span stole 17 bases and scored 71 runs. Though these are not stellar numbers, they were good enough for Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo to make the trade for him.
With the Nationals, Span’s numbers should improve. He is expected to move into the top spot in the batting order. If Washington re-signs free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, the top of the order could be one of the best in baseball. Span would lead off with either Werth or Harper batting behind him. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman would bat third with LaRoche fourth, Morse fifth and either Harper or Werth sixth. With five good hitters behind him, Span would be able to help the team by getting on base and using his speed.
In the field, Washington will have to make a decision as to who will start. Span will definitely play center, but where will Harper, Morse and Werth play? The guess here is that Morse will either be traded or move to first base if LaRoche leaves. Harper will move to right and Werth to left. With Span, Harper and Werth in the outfield, the Nationals will have more speed than they had in 2012 when Morse played left.
Finding a center fielder and leadoff man was one of the things Washington had to do in the off season. They have done it by acquiring Span.
The Nationals have taken another step towards their goal of winning an NL pennant.