The Minnesota Twins finished the 2012 season with the worst record in the American League, and it’s apparent that they’re not going to win anytime soon. Today the team announced they were sending starting center fielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for 22-year old minor league pitcher Alex Meyer.
But, while playing for the future is the right move for the Twins, they seemingly left a fair bit of value on the table in this swap. Meyer had a very good year in his first minor league season in 2012 – he posted a 2.86 ERA between the A and Advanced-A levels – but he’s not any sort of super prospect. John Manuel of Baseball America estimates he’d be the Twins’ sixth best prospect. A pretty good get, but probably not worth Denard Span.
Span, I think, gets overlooked because he’s not a power hitter, but he’s averaged 3.5 fWAR per 600 plate appearances for his career and is signed through 2015 for a total of $20.25 million ($11.75 million and two years of it guaranteed). There’s a ton of surplus value there. That same $20 million on the free agent market would fetch roughly 4.5 wins, and Span will likely proved more than double that over the next three years.
Contracts like Span’s aren’t ones that are wise to give away – he’ll produce much more than he’d cost to replace – and if you do try to move it, you hope to get something more than a “pretty good” A-ball prospect in return. You want someone(s) you can bank on. I know they needed pitching help, but this move feels all too desperate on that front.
As a Detroit Tigers fan, however, it’s tough not to like this move. It makes the Twins worse in the short term (not that they needed much help), but it also likely doesn’t make them that much better for the future.