Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Ryan's reluctant to trade Span, but the Nationals might beg

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB, Twins offense, Twins rumors Updated: November 17, 2011 - 11:54 AM

Logic said the Washington Nationals would rekindle their efforts to acquire Twins center fielder Denard Span this offseason, after those talks stalled at the July 31 trade deadline.

The Nationals finished 80-81, and excitement is building around the nation's capital. Think of how the lineup could look with Span in the fold, once uberprospect Bryce Harper gets his inevitable big league promotion:

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Danny Espinosa, 2B (switch-hitter smacked 21 HR this year)
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Bryce Harper, LF
5. Jayson Werth, RF
6. Michael Morse, 1B (had 31 HR and 95 RBI this year)
7. Ian Desmond, SS
8. Wilson Ramos, C
9. Stephen Strasburg, P

When healthy, Span is an elite leadoff hitter, and the Twins have Ben Revere to take his place. The Nationals pushed very hard for Span in July, offering closer Drew Storen, but the teams couldn't agree on the pieces to balance out the deal.

At this week's GM meetings in Milwaukee, Adam Kilgore, the Nationals beat writer for the Washington Post, asked Terry Ryan about the possibility of trading Span or Revere. Ryan didn't sound too enthused about trading either one.

“We’re a little lean” in the outfield, Ryan told Kilgore, knowing outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are being wooed on the free-agent market. "Span is a good player. We have plans for him to be our leadoff hitter and our center fielder. He had a tough year injury-wise as well. We are in the same need as most clubs. We’re looking for a good center fielder and a leadoff hitter. He can do both. Span is important to our ballclub.”

So maybe that's where these conversations should end. But there aren't many other players who fit Washington's plan quite like Span. Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton might be available in a trade, but he's not a quintessential leadoff hitter. And it doesn't sound like the Nationals are interested in Coco Crisp or Grady Sizemore.

In Milwaukee, I asked Nationals GM Mike Rizzo about his team's center field need.

"We're settled in most of our spots and center field is one of those spots that we’d like to get a long-term answer," he said. "We’re not going to do any short-term, quick fixes because we feel that we have people in the minor leagues who could handle that situation as an everyday player, but they’re a couple years away.

"So we’re looking for an answer that fits our timeline, and the package that we’re looking for -- young enough to grow with us and become another core part of our ballclub. It would be great if he could hit leadoff."

Bottom line: Span might have the best trade value of any Twins player. Ryan knows a starting outfield that includes both Span and Revere would be long on range but short on power. He might sound reluctant to trade one, but if he gets an offer that allows him to address multiple needs, he might have to reconsider. I wouldn't rule out a Span-to-Washington deal just yet.


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