By Steve Roney
Denard Span has finally arrived, stepping into a gaping hole in the middle of the outfield and at the top of the lineup – but he didn’t come cheaply.
Going back to Minnesota is righty Alex Meyer, the 6’9” flame-throwing 2011 first-round pick out of the University of Kentucky. He spent this past season, his professional debut, making 18 starts at low-A Hagerstown and seven more at high-A in Potomac.
If you knew his name before today, there’s a great chance that you learned it while going to one of those games.
There’s another good chance, however, that we’ll be hearing his name again in a couple years – and depending on the state of the Nationals pitching staff, fans in D.C. might not like what they hear.
Meyer has been highly regarded for years, enough so to garner a reported offer of $2,000,000 to sign with the Red Sox as a 20th round pick out of high school in 2008. He rolled the dice and decided to become a Wildcat, earning that exact amount three years later from the Nats – one of 18 first-round picks to sign for that amount or higher.
The money was there for two reasons: His imposing size, and what that projectable frame meant to his pitch velocity, both current and future. The knock, as often is in these cases, was that Meyer didn’t always know where the ball was going when it left his hand.
In 129 innings during his first professional season, Meyer put up fantastic conventional (10-6, 2.86 ERA, 1.1 WHIP) and peripheral (3.09 strikeouts per walk, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings) numbers.
Meyer’s debut was an unmitigated success – and though he left off in single-A, a big, 22-year old college product who has finally harnessed his almost unlimited power potential is the sort of pitcher that climbs the minor league ladder two rungs at a time.
Should he build off the momentum of his rookie season and put up numbers like this at each stop – which would certainly be no mean feat, but still – then Alex Meyer could be in the Twins bullpen by September of 2014, and starting by 2015.
With a good, young starting rotation and decent organizational depth, the Nationals front office was willing to part with that potential in return for a player that unquestionably makes the Nats a better, more well-rounded offensive and defensive team.
If anything, it’s a testament to how far the Nationals have come – in years past, Meyer would have been hope for the future. Instead, he was a valuable asset used to improve the team right now.
Even so, the saying goes that you can never have too much pitching, and teams don’t part with arms like Meyer’s lightly.
This trade was a win for the Nationals, especially since Span remains under team control for up to three more years.
Still, Washington’s new centerfielder was no gift – and nobody understands that fact better than the Nationals themselves.
The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports.
Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.
The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras.
The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity.
The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117.
Related: Nationals 2017 promotional schedule includes snow globes and fedoras
The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.
Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.
On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.
But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.
Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.
Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways.
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