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Denard Span owns a career .357 on-base percentage in five seasons with the Twins.
The Nationals addressed their longstanding need for a leadoff hitter and center fielder this afternoon, acquiring Denard Span from the Twins in exchange for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer in a move that will have all sorts of domino effects on the roster.
Span, 28, is a classic leadoff-hitting center fielder who owns a .284 batting average and .357 on-base percentage in five seasons with Minnesota. He'll immediately jump into the Nationals' starting lineup, bumping Bryce Harper to one of the corner outfield positions.
"I think he's going to bring a dimension to the club that we haven't had before," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "A fast-moving, exciting guy that makes contact and moves the ball around and can fly around the field."
The trade, though, means the Nationals will have only one available spot in their 2013 lineup for Adam LaRoche or Michael Morse. LaRoche is currently a free agent and is seeking at least a three-year contract. Morse remains under contract for one more season and could shift to first base if LaRoche leaves.
Though the obvious resolution would seem to have LaRoche signing elsewhere and Morse taking over at first base, Rizzo didn't rule out the possibility of retaining LaRoche and dealing Morse to another club.
"It gives us some options in dealing with our roster," Rizzo said.
Span had spent his entire 10-year, professional career with the Twins, drafted in the first round in 2002 out of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School. The Nationals were interested in acquiring him at the July 31, 2011 trade deadline but were unwilling to send a package to Minnesota that included closer Drew Storen and others.
"My emotions right now are all over the place, but definitely excited," Span said. "I'm very excited to be coming to Washington. I think a year-and-a-half ago when I first heard the rumors, I definitely don't think I was ready for it then. But fast-forward to now, I'm definitely ready for it. I'm ready to be coming to a team that already is in place to win. I just hope I can come here and fit in and not get in the way."
The ultimate price to acquire Span was significant; Meyer, 22, was among the Nationals' top pitching prospects. A first-round pick in 2011, the 6-foot-9 right-hander went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in his first professional season with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac.
"We understand the process," Rizzo said. "To get a good, established major-league player at Denard's age with the contract that he has, you're going to have to give up a good quality player."