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November 30, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Nats Finally Get Span

by R.J. Anderson and Mark Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Alex Meyer from the Nationals for OF-L Denard Span. [11/29]

Alex Meyer is an absolutely massive guy with an imposing presence on the mound. His long, lean frame can be difficult to keep in check throughout his delivery, but he made strides in 2012 with his consistency. With that improved consistency, Meyer’s fastball that sits in the 94-95 mph range found the strike zone more frequently. He can run his fastball up to 98 mph and there are times when his fastball plays up a grade because his long extension gets the ball on hitters more quickly than they expect when it comes out of his hand. Backing up his fastball, Meyer has a true plus slider that can miss bats and helps him maintain a high strikeout rate. His changeup is well below average and he rarely shows feel for throwing it.

Having seen Meyer several times over the last year, I can easily see the high-ceiling talent that warranted a $2 million signing bonus in the first round in 2011. With continued improvement in his control, Meyer’s two plus pitches could allow him to pitch in the middle of a big league rotation. If he doesn’t settle into that role quickly upon arrival in Minnesota, both of his pitches could play up in short bursts out of the bullpen, possibly enough to make him a high-end closer candidate. After reaching and succeeding in High-A this year, Meyer should start 2013 in Double-A and could get a cup of coffee late next year. —Mark Anderson

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal worth $12 million with an additional $2.5 million available in award bonuses. [11/28]

While Pettitte’s original return to the Yankees, back in March, came as a surprise, this re-signing did not.  The Yankees needed another veteran starter, preferably on a short-term deal, and Pettitte fits the bill. He enjoyed a strong 12-start season last year, posting his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2005. Factor in two quality postseason outings and Pettitte seems like a reasonable middle-of-the-rotation option. Given the short term and money involved, the Yankees’ relationship with Pettitte appears to have paid off again. —R.J. Anderson

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-L Denard Span from the Twins for RHP Alex Meyer. [11/29]

Mike Rizzo’s previous attempts to land a legitimate center fielder always left him circling back to Span. The last publicly known time Rizzo and the Twins were engaged on Span had Minnesota demanding the inclusion of infielder Steve Lombardozzi. Yet Rizzo landed his man without losing Lombardozzi.

Span, who turns 29 in February, is coming off his best offensive season in three years. He has not been able to repeat the high on-base percentages that put him on the map over his first two seasons, but he does bring a competent offensive profile to the leadoff spot thanks to high contact rates and a willingness to walk. On the basepaths, Span boasts adequate stolen base success rates while showing a knack for taking the extra base. Many regard Span as an above-average defensive center fielder, and his presence should allow Bryce Harper to move to a corner position for good.

Sweetening the deal for Rizzo is Span’s contract. While B.J. Upton received a five-year deal worth $75 million from division-rival Atlanta, Span will make about $20 million over the next three seasons. Making matters better: $8.5 million of that sum is unguaranteed. Granted, Span is less reliable than Upton, having spent time on the disabled list in three of the past four seasons, but the added financial flexibility should allow the Nationals to re-sign Adam LaRoche or bring in another worthwhile contributor. —R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here

Related Content:  Andy Pettitte,  Denard Span,  Alex Meyer

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