WASHINGTON (AP) - With the addition of Denard Span, the Washington Nationals aren’t just plugging a player into the lineup and moving on. He’s like that nice new piece of furniture that causes the homeowner to redecorate the entire room _ just so everything is in the perfect spot.
With Span in center, 20-year-old Bryce Harper moves to a corner spot _ probably left field, with Jayson Werth staying in right. Michael Morse could then move to first base _ the position played by free-agent slugger Adam LaRoche.
All for a player who hit .284 with 90 steals and a .357 on-base percentage during five seasons with the Twins _ the type of player the Nationals have been seeking since moving to Washington in 2005.
“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 guy around and can fly around the field.”
Harper is also fast-moving and can fly around the field _ although he hits with much more power than Span and is a converted catcher. Harper had some adventures in center field this season but was also a sparkplug, doing enough with his bat and glove to win the NL’s Rookie of the Year award.
Nevertheless, the Nationals have always wanted to move him one spot over.
“He’s a terrific young center fielder,” Rizzo said. “But we felt for his long-term development and his career path that we wanted to move him out of a taxing position of center field, both mentally taxing and physically taxing. We’ve accomplished that.”
Werth also seemed a bit out of place as a leadoff hitter. He selflessly handled the role just fine this year, but he was there essentially by default because there wasn’t a better option.
“I think his best skillset is farther down,” Rizzo said, “in a run-producing type of spot.”
“It gives us some options in dealing with our roster,” Rizzo said.
Span’s name has surfaced in trade rumors for much of the past two years, including some interest from the Nationals in 2010. He asserted himself as one of the Twins‘ building blocks in 2009 and 2010, emerging as a quality leadoff hitter and versatile outfielder.
Span is entering the fourth year of a $16.5 million, five-year contract with a $9 million club option for a sixth year. His deal was considered quite a bargain for the Twins given Span’s production in the first two seasons, but he only played in 70 games in 2011 because of issues with concussions and migraines, then worked to revamp his diet and workout regimen to try to better manage the situation.