The Washington Nationals announced Thursday that the club had traded for center fielder Denard Span, previously of the Minnesota Twins, and given up right-handed pitching prospect Alex Meyer in exchange.
In a conference call, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo explained that he had been in contact with Minnesota General Manager Terry Ryan for the previous "3 to 4 weeks" about a possible deal and that momentum had increased since the Thanksgiving weekend.
"He fits very well for us," Rizzo said of Span, who recorded a .342 on-base percentage with a .738 OPS in 128 games with Minnesota. "Outstanding character guy. Teammates love him. His skillset is something we've been looking for for a couple of years now."
Rizzo became demure when asked what effect the deal would have on the Nationals plans surrounding free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche and infielder-outfielder Michael Morse. Rizzo stated only that Morse was under contract with the Nationals, and the club was negotiating with LaRoche, though conventional wisdom has it that the arrival of Span means that the Nationals would have to jettison one of the two.
Rizzo also declined to say who would play what position in Washington's 2013 outfield, with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Span likely to receive the lion's share of the starts. The general manager said that issue would be discussed in spring training among himself, the players involved, and manager Davey Johnson.
"We've got three players that can play center field in the major leagues effectively," Rizzo said. "They're gonna be an exciting group to watch."
To complete the deal, the Nationals sent right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer to Minnesota. Meyer, picked 23rd overall by the Nats in the 2011 Amateur Draft out of the University of Kentucky, posted a 10-6 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.101 WHIP in 129 innings with Hagerstown and Potomac in A-ball in 2012.
"You have to give to get," Rizzo said. "To give up an Alex Meyer for Denard Span, it's always a difficult decision to make."