Anyone who follows new Washington Nationals' outfielder Denard Span on Twitter (@ThisisDSpan) knows the 28-year-old former Minnesota Twin was in the nation's capital this past weekend to visit his new home and meet with his new team, including Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, who took a picture with Span on the field in Nationals Park.
Me and gm Mike Rizzo at National's park lockerz.com/s/268944450— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) December 14, 2012
The veteran of five MLB seasons with the Twins who finished the 2012 campaign at +3.9 fWAR with a .283/.342/.395 line, a career-high 38 doubles, four triples and four home runs in 128 games and 568 plate appearances told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Danny Rouhier (@funnydanny) in an interview aired on Mr. Rouhier's show with co-host Holden Kushner (@Holdenradio) this morning that it meant a lot to him to be going to a team that had pursued him for over two seasons before finally acquiring him in a trade for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer in late November.
"I tell you what," Span said, "It's a great feeling. It's a great feeling to be coming to a place where you're wanted. Obviously, the last two years there have been rumors that I was supposed to get traded to Washington and for it to actually finally become a reality after two years of them trying to do it, it definitely is a great feeling to be coming to an organization like this, an organization that is in place to win."
The Nationals are happy to have Span. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described the outfielder in a press conference after the deal with the Twins as a, "... high average guy, .350 OBP-type of guy," who, "... doesn't strike out," or is at least, "... one of the tougher guys in the league to strike out," and a, "... contact bat [who] can really, really run... [hits] from the left side of the plate, which keeps our lineup balanced and [is] a guy that in the past has stolen a lot of bases and we feel is really going to come into his own as a base stealer in the National League."
The new Nats' leadoff man told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s host he too thinks he improve on the basepaths. "It's something I've been working on more than anybody probably knows," Span said, "But it's to be more of a threat on the bases. I feel like if I add that to team, add that to my game I will be a complete... first of all, it will only help the team having me at second or third base with the meat of the lineup coming up. But I feel like, myself as a player, if I can add that to my game, I will be an all-around, leadoff, prototypical player."
Asked to describe himself as a player for any fans in Washington who might not be familliar with Span's game, the outfielder said, "My game is first and foremost to bring good defense. I pride myself on catching the ball, trying to make exciting plays to get the fans into it and uplift our starting pitcher, whoever that might be for that day. Secondly, is to be the best leadoff hitter I can possibly be and set the tone for my teammates and just get the game going and rolling in the right direction and that's pretty much it. I'm going to try to bring a lot of athleticism to the team and a lot of excitement." As a leadoff hitter, Span had a .280/.339/.393 line last season. Leading off an inning, he had a .280/.331/.404 line.
Defensively, Span's +8.5 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) was the second-best amongst qualified center fielders in the majors behind only runaway UZR leader, the Braves' Michael Bourn (+22.4 UZR). Span's .989 fld% was down from .990 in the last full season he played in 2010 and his career .991 fld%. Span told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mr. Rouhier he was looking forward to patrolling an outfield that wasn't quite as expansive as the one he played in for the last three years in Target Field in Minnesota, though he did say that after visiting Nationals Park this week, the outfield in D.C., "... looks pretty big as well." He was looking forward to the chance to play in the nation's capital though, and, "... definitely looking forward to playing next to Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. These are two guys that probably are going to make my job a lot easier."
Offensively, Span admitted that he's definitely not a power hitter. "I'm not going up there to try to hit a home run, but I'm capable of doing it if a pitcher makes mistakes or whatever," the outfielder who hit a career-high eight home runs in 2009 said, "but my goal and what I like to do is to try to hit the ball in the gaps and try to hit doubles and triples." Span's 38 doubles in 2012 were the second-most by a center fielder league-wide, tied with Angel Pagan behind only the Orioles' Adam Jones (39 2B). Span's .283 AVG was eighth-highest amongst center fielders. The Nationals finally have the center fielder/leadoff man they were after this winter.
• Listen to Denard Span talk to 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Danny Rouhier HERE.