The Atlanta Braves found their center fielder in B.J. Upton on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins wasted no more time in trading their center fielder to one of the remaining teams in the baseball marketplace looking for help at that position.
The Twins shipped Denard Span to the Washington Nationals in exchange for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
The surprise for me isn’t so much in the trading of Span (which has been rumored for
weeks months years) as it is in what the Twins received in return.
That’s not meant to be a slight on Meyer, who has plenty of promise. However, I always thought the Twins would be seeking a major league-ready arm in exchange for Span.
That leaves me wondering if the acquisition of Meyer isn’t a sign that the Twins are thinking about, to some degree, blowing up the major league roster. After all, almost all of the team’s top prospects – Meyer included – were in A-ball last season and years away from being able to help out. The Twins’ loss total in each of the last two seasons has approached 100, and there isn’t a lot of hope that the farm system will provide any help in the next couple of seasons.
With Joe Mauer‘s massive contract still on the books, the Twins probably aren’t looking to do a Florida/Miami Marlins type of dismantling of the roster.
But could we see Josh Willingham – coming off of a career season in 2012 – get dealt at next week’s winter meetings? Is there a market for Justin Morneau? Will the Twins keep dealing for help in A-ball and Double-A with hopes of that wave of players – led by Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia, Meyer and Co. – will be the ones to revive the franchise? Only time will tell.
Twins fans know all about Span and what he brought to the table. He is a reliable leadoff hitter known for taking a lot of pitches. Among major leaguers that qualify for the league lead, Span was second to Marco Scutaro in swinging strike percentage.
He is under a very reasonable contract that called for $21 million over the next three seasons (the last of those three is a $9 million club option, which in all likelihood would be picked up by the Nats when the time comes).
However, Span’s durability has suffered lately, and now he has a concussion history that clubs need to think about.
As for Meyer, he was drafted 23rd overall in the 2011 draft. The 6-foot-9 right-hander from the University of Kentucky brings a mid- to upper-90s fastball along with a slider according to reports. One post-draft assessment said that he needed work on his change-up.
In 129 innings at two levels of A-ball in the Nationals’ system, Meyer struck out 139 with an ERA of 2.86. As a 22-year-old, he would be expected to play well at that level of the minors, but FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron writes that there’s still considerable upside and plenty of risk – in this deal for the Twins.