Denard Span has been linked to the Nationals in trade rumors dating back to mid-2011 and the Twins finally pulled the trigger today, sending the 28-year-old center fielder to Washington for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
Span fits what the Nationals were looking for both offensively and defensively, as he’s a prototypical leadoff man with good on-base skills and speed who covers plenty of ground in center field. This year he hit .283 with a .342 on-base percentage in 128 games and Span has a career OBP of .357. He’s under team control through 2015 at reasonable prices, making $20.25 million over the three seasons.
Meyer was the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Kentucky and the 6-foot-9 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball had a strong pro debut this year, throwing 129 innings with a 2.86 ERA and 139/45 K/BB ratio between two levels of Single-A. He’s certainly not MLB-ready yet, but could be ready at some point in 2014 and the Twins have been desperate to find some hard-throwing starters with top-of-the-rotation potential.
Span will take over as the Nationals’ center fielder and leadoff man, allowing Bryce Harper to play a corner spot full time and perhaps signaling the end of Adam LaRoche’s time in Washington. Ben Revere will replace Span as the Twins’ center fielder and will likely get every chance to become Minnesota’s leadoff man despite a .319 career on-base percentage though age 24.
Note: For my much longer, Twins-centric view of the trade, click here.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.