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Rizzo and Span talk about the trade

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Rizzo and Span talk about the trade

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and new center fielder Denard Span each held a conference call with reporters this evening to discuss today's trade with the Twins. Here are some highlights from both men...

MIKE RIZZO
Were you surprised this trade came about quickly, and how did it come about?
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised to get it done quickly. We've been in contact with Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins for approximately 3-4 weeks when we started discussing the deal. It started gaining momentum last week after the GM meetings and we started really making some progress the past couple of days."

What does this mean for Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse?
"Michael Morse is under contract for us. He's a guy that's a middle of the lineup, productive player for us. And Adam LaRoche was our first baseman last year. We're still discussing with him and in contract negotiations with him. So it gives us some options in dealing with our roster."

What made Span the guy you wanted?
"He fits very well for us. First of all, outstanding character, big-time makeup guy, teammates love him on the field, off the field, community guy. I've known him for a long time. I've seen him since he played at Tampa high school and just watched him develop as a player year in and year out. His skill set is something that we were looking for. It's something we've been looking for for a while now. You talk about a true defensive ballhawk, center-field type of guy with great range. Sabermetrically and with the scout's eye, he's a front-line defensive center fielder. He's a consummate leadoff type of hitter. He appealed greatly to us because of his skill set as an offensive player, high average guy, .350 on base percentage type of guy, doesn't strike out, one of the tougher guys in the league to strike out, and can really, really run from the left side of the plate, which keeps our lineup balanced. And a guy who in the past has stolen a lot of bases and we feel is going to really come into his own as a basestealer with us in the National League."

Is this the first player like this you've had in D.C.?
"The first guy with this kind of skill set that's an established big-league player. We think we've got guys in the system that fulfill this role, but they're years away. They're in the pipeline, and we're looking for big things from them down the road. But as far as an established guy at his age, he's a 28-year-old guy still just reaching the prime of his career, and I really think his game is going to translate to the National League very very well."

How did you settle on Meyer being the other half of the trade?
"We understand the process. To get a good, established major league player at Denard's age with the contract that he has, you're going to have to give up a good quality player. Terry Ryan is one of the best general managers in the game. You're not going to pull the wool over his eyes. You have to give to get, and we feel we have great depth in our minor league system. We continue to call upon our scouts and player development to add to that system each and every year. To give up an Alex Meyer for Denard Span, it's always a difficult decision to make, but one we felt fit our time frame, fit our skill set and was something that the front office and ownership was willing to do."

Does this move knock out a lot of what you hoped to accomplish this offseason?
"It was one of the goals that we had, to fill this spot. We had a lot of options. We could have stayed with Harp in center field. He's a terrific young center fielder. But we feel like for his long-term development and his career path we wanted to move him out of the taxing position of center field, both mentally taxing and physically taxing. We've accomplished that. We also have a lot of other things on our agenda to improve the ballclub. Because as we've seen, the other teams in our league, they're not standing pat. They're trying to do better and we're trying to put the right moves in to compete with them and to stay a competitive ballclub."

How close were you to trading for Span in 2011, and are you concerned about his past issues with concussions?
"We were in talks with the Twins a couple years back and tried to acquire him. The trade didn't work out, the players didn't work out that we were willing to give up for him. As far as the injury history, he had a fairly healthy 2012 after a concussion season in 2011. Our medical people cleared him of being able to sign him. He had an injury-free finish to the season and really had one heck of a season for the Twins. Our scouts saw him play very, very well. Our medical people cleared him, and we're confident that he's ready to roll into spring training. After talking to him just briefly before I came on with you guys here, he's feeling very good about himself, he's happy to be in the Nationals family and he's looking forward to really getting after it this year and starting in spring training and bringing it forward."

Has there been any trade interest in Morse?
"We've had some inquiries about Michael Morse and several other players that are on our roster."

DENARD SPAN
What was your reaction to the trade?

"First of all, my emotions right now are all over the place but definitely excited. I'm very excited to be coming to Washington. I think a year-and-a-half ago when I first heard the rumors, I definitely don't think I was ready for it then. But fast-forward to now I'm definitely ready for it. I'm ready to be coming to a team that already is in place to win. I just hope I can come here and fit in and not get in the way."

How excited are you to play with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper?
"I'm very excited to be playing alongside both of those guys. Two all-star caliber players. I feel like I need to step my game up and try to get to the All-Star Game, hopefully. I think they're going to elevate my game, just by playing alongside with them."

Are there any lingering concerns about your concussions?
"I'm confident that I'm behind it. I feel like last year was a good sign of that. I don't feel like I played to my 100 percent capability last year, but I was able to go out and prove that I still can be a good player. It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to go through. The reason why I said I wasn't ready for it a year and a half ago was because I was going through the concussions. Hearing trade talks and going through a concussion wasn't easy for me. But fast-forward to today, I'm definitely ready."

How did those earlier trade talks make you feel?
"That's the greatest feeling any ballplayer can have, when you're wanted. When a team does whatever they have to do to trade for you, or try to acquire you through free agency. It's a good feeling, to be wanted. I talked to Mr. Rizzo and I could hear it in his voice, how excited he was to have me. I heard his voice and it kind of brought some energy into me because I'd just gotten off the phone with our GM and it was kind of a sad conversation. And I talked to Mike and it kind of gave me some life. I'm just ready to go."

How would you describe your style of play?
"I'm definitely a grinder, in a sense. I love to have fun. I try to bring my A-game every day and I'm definitely going to bring a lot of range in the outfield. I love to go get it out in center field. I thrive on being one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, or trying to be. I love setting the tone. I love getting up to start the game and taking pitches and trying to give my teammates the best look they can and try to set the tone and try to get on base. Stealing bases for me, I'm still a work in progress. I'm still trying to up that and I'm not going to stop working."

How is that you were actually born in D.C.?
"My mom went to school in D.C. [at the University of the District of Columbia] and my uncle lived there for over 20 years, my mom's older brother. When she went to college, she lived there. At the time, she had moved back to Florida, but when she was pregnant with me she came up to D.C. to visit some family and friends and ended up having me."

So, she wasn't expecting for you to be born here?
"I don't think so. I don't think she planned on having me in Washington, D.C. I think she'd planned on having me in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and I ended up just popping out early."

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

MORE MLB: POSTSEASON BRACKET PROJECTION (THURSDAY)

Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

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Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

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In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone.