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After searching for a long-term solution in center field for several years, the Nationals entered this offseason with a bevy of options at the position. The free agent class was deep with B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, and Angel Pagan. Throw Josh Hamilton in there, the year’s top overall free agent, and few offseasons offer as many choices.
But instead of taking the free agent route, the Nationals pulled the trigger on a trade target long rumored to be on their wish list. In comes 28 year old Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. The Nationals decided to go with a cheaper, more short-term choice in Span, but still got the leadoff hitter and defensive stud they were coveting.
Acquiring Span shows that general manager Mike Rizzo opted for flexibility over flash. But looking at Span in comparison to this year’s other options, the difference really isn’t that dramatic.
Take a look at how Span stacked up against the free agents in 2012:
B.J. Upton (28 years old)
146 G – .246/.298/.454 – 79 R – 28 HR – 78 RBI – 31 SB
Michael Bourn (29 years old)
155 G – .274/.348/.391 – 96 R – 9 HR – 57 RBI – 42 SB
Denard Span (28 years old)
128 G – .283/.342/.395 – 71 R – 4 HR – 41 RBI – 17 SB
Angel Pagan (31 years old)
154 G – .288/.338/.440 – 95 R – 8 HR – 56 RBI – 29 SB
Despite being tied to the Nationals in rumors, Upton was a poor fit from the beginning. He bats right handed, doesn’t slot well at the leadoff position, and would require the biggest contract of the group. He does have the best power numbers of the four, but when healthy the Nats’ lineup has plenty of big bats. They needed someone who could set the table and slot their core hitters later in the lineup.
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