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“At the time, we didn’t know if we were going to sign [first baseman Adam LaRoche], so we were really looking for a left-handed leadoff type,” Johnson said. “[Span] was the guy we thought we were going to get and we ended up getting. I know there was talk about Bourn, too, but that was a big money deal.”

In the transaction log, Span was traded to the Nationals on Nov. 29, 2012. Upton’s deal with the Braves became official the same day.

It could’ve been different. Several center fielders changed teams this winter, including Span’s former Twins teammate Ben Revere winding up in Philadelphia. Upton could have made his way closer to home in Washington. He may not have been teammates with his brother.

So far, the Nationals and Braves seem content with the way it worked out.

“We’re happy,” Johnson said.

“Anytime you can find a center field leadoff guy, there’s not many of them around,” Zimmerman said. “Usually better teams, who have a chance to make a run at something, that’s kind of one of the last pieces because it’s so hard to develop. You usually have to go out and get it. I guess it is kind of funny how they all ended up here [in the National League East].”