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Span might have been best option at CF

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Span might have been best option at CF

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.

Bourn made the most sense for the Nationals of the three free agents given his track record as a leadoff hitter, but with his age and contract demands the Nats decided to look elsewhere. Span has a similar batting average and on-base percentage, also hits lefty, and also plays good defense in center field. Oh, and he’s two years younger (Bourn turns 30 in December).

Pagan may have simply been too old as well as he turns 32 during the middle of the 2013 season. He just won a World Series with the Giants, but was never linked seriously to Washington.

Given the age of Bourn and the sub-.300 OBP of Upton, combined with their asking prices, why wouldn’t you prefer Span? The Nationals will now have Span on the books through 2014 with $11.25 million owed and a team option for 2015. If they signed either Bourn or Upton they would be locking in all three outfield positions for the foreseeable future, two with massive deals. Just ask the Angels how that method can backfire.

Instead of sacrificing a lot of money to improve in center field, the Nationals decided to give up their best pitching prospect. Alex Meyer could someday make the Nats’ regret letting him go, but the short-term flexibility might be worth the risk.

24 hours ago it looked like the Nationals were in a tough position this offseason, trying to improve their outfield while preventing a drop-off at first base. Now the ball is in Rizzo’s court. He has leverage with Adam LaRoche, an enviable trade chip in Michael Morse, and a defensively sound lead-off hitter in Denard Span. 

Instead of making a move looking four or five years into the future, the Nationals have a solution for the next two or three years. By then prospect Brian Goodwin could be ready for the majors and, between he and Span, the Nats will likely have the position on lock throughout their championship window. In the meantime, Span gives them everything they wanted out of Bourn and Upton, but without the price and long-term commitment.

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Nats RHP Barrett suffers major setback in recovery from Tommy John

Nats RHP Barrett suffers major setback in recovery from Tommy John

Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett has suffered a significant setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

While rehabbing in Viera, Fla. on Friday, Barrett broke his right elbow. He will now see Dr. James Andrews on Monday to have his elbow fracture repaired and his ulnar collateral ligament examined.

Barrett had his UCL repaired last September by Andrews. He is eight months into the recovery, which generally takes 12 to 18 months. Barrett had at one point expressed hope of returning to the Nationals bullpen this September, but that is now in question.

Barrett also had bone chips removed from his elbow in September. And this past winter he had bone chips removed from his ankle. It has been a tough year for the right-hander, who broke onto the scene as a rookie in 2014.

Barrett, 28, has pitched in 90 total games for the Nationals. He posted a 2.66 ERA in 50 games in 2014. In 2015, Barrett held a 4.60 ERA through 40 outings.

The Nationals announced Barrett's elbow fracture on Sunday afternoon.

[RELATED: Nats' Ryan Zimmerman: 'I think I'm good to go']

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Drew Storen designated for assignment by Toronto

Drew Storen designated for assignment by Toronto

Former Washington Nationals pitcher Drew Storen has been designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays, thus likely ending his brief tenure with the team.

Storen was traded to Toronto by the Nationals in excahnge for outfielder Ben Revere in January. He has struggled this season with a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched.

The right-handed reliever was a reliable pitcher for Washington, but his career with the Nationals was marred by the ninth inning collapse against the St. Loius Cardinals in the 2012 playoffs. Handed a two-run lead in the ninth inning, Storen came within one strike of the win. Instead, he blew the save giving up four runs.

Storen eventually recovered, but Mike Rizzo's faith in him never did. In 2015, the Nationals traded for Jonathan Papelbon despite a strong season by Storen as closer.

Now perhaps the same thing could be playing out this year for Papelbon as the Nationals target New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

RELATED: How Dusty's holy water helped Revere vs. Padres

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Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Having landed five hits already in three minor league rehab games, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on track to return to the Nationals on Tuesday when they hit the road to play at the Cleveland Indians.

The 12-year MLB veteran believes that by Tuesday he'll not only be ready to return, but to play every day.

"I think I'm good to go," Zimmerman said. "I feel good. I didn't take that much time off, but it was good to get down there and get some at-bats. I'll be ready to come help this team out in the second half."

Zimmerman, who is recovering from a left rib cage strain, played Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He went 5-for-12 with a home run, five RBI, a double and four runs scored.

The Nats wanted the 31-year-old to play three games and he came out of them feeling no complications from his injury.

"Everything feels good," Zimmerman said. "When I come back, I will be ready to go."

Zimmerman has been on the disabled list since July 7. He sustained the injury the day before during an at-bat against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Zimmerman is hitting .221/.284/.402 with 12 homers and 38 RBI in 74 games this season.

[RELATED: How Dusty's holy water helped Revere vs. Padres]

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