MINNEAPOLIS -- After two years of trade rumors, the Twins dealt center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for Minor League right-hander Alex Meyer on Thursday.
More on Meyer
Alex Meyer, RHP: Very tall and lanky, Meyer still has plenty of room to add weight and strength to his 6-foot-9 frame. He has two plus pitches, a fastball that reaches 97 mph and a power slider (86-88 mph). He also added a changeup, and although it's not as good as the two plus pitches, it has the chance to be an average pitch. Meyer struggled with command issues early in college but got ahead of hitters more consistently as a junior, and his walk rate in his first pro season was just slightly above three per nine innings. He put up good numbers with Class A Hagerstown in 2012 and shortly after pitching in the Futures Game earned a promotion to Class A Advanced Potomac, where he was even better.
The two clubs were heavily linked as trade partners for Span before the Trade Deadline in 2011 and '12, but finally put together a deal just four days before baseball's Winter Meetings in Nashville.
It fills needs for both teams, as the Twins acquire starting pitching help while the Nationals get a prototypical leadoff hitter who provides solid defense in center field.
"We have some depth in the outfield here, so it just made sense," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "It's difficult to get these types of guys once they're up near Triple-A or their rookie years in the big leagues. So we went and got a guy who pitched in the Carolina League this year. I don't know if you waited much longer, you'd have a shot at this guy."
Meyer, 22, posted a 2.86 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 45 walks in 129 innings split between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac last year. It was his first professional season after he was drafted by the Nationals as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Meyer said he was just getting done working out when he received a phone call from the Nationals saying he'd been traded to the Twins.
"It caught me off guard, but I'm really excited about it," Meyer told MLB.com by phone. "It's going to be a great opportunity for me. I'm thankful for what the Nationals helped me out with. I'm looking forward to getting ready for Spring Training with the Twins."
The 6-foot-9 right-hander is ranked as the No. 50 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, and was Washington's No. 2 prospect. He slides into the No. 3 spot on the Twins' list, behind Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Meyer is regarded as a power arm, possessing a 97-mph fastball with a slider in the upper 80s.
"He's got four pitches with velocity and size, and he throws it over," Ryan said. "So I'll let him dictate where he's going to end up in which spot in the rotation and all that. But he's certainly has the capability of providing some quality innings."
Meyer, though, is expected to start the season at Double-A New Britain and there's a chance he won't be able to help the big league rotation until 2014. Meyer said it's his goal to try to move through the system as fast as possible, but that he knows it's ultimately up to the Twins.
"You try not to think about that too much, especially now," Meyer said. "I'm just trying to learn as much about the organization as I can. But of course it's everybody's goal to make the Majors. But the Twins will have a plan and hopefully I can follow suit with it and let them make their decisions."
Ryan also said the Twins are not done acquiring starting pitching, as it remains their No. 1 priority this offseason.
"We have some time before we leave for Spring Training, so we still have some work to do on the rotation," Ryan said.
Span, meanwhile, leaves the Twins after five years in Minnesota. For his career, the center fielder has hit .284 with a .357 on-base percentage and a .389 slugging percentage, along with 23 homers, 230 RBIs, 360 runs and 90 stolen bases in 589 games.
Span is also under contract through 2014 -- he's set to make $4.75 million in '13 and $6.5 million in '14 -- while the Nationals hold a $9 million club option for '15.
With Span gone, Ben Revere will take over in center field for the Twins. It leaves a vacant spot in right field that could be taken by a combination of Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit.
Ryan said he called Span to thank him for his time in the organization, as he was acquired by the club in the first round of the '02 First-Year Player Draft.
"It's a difficult thing," Ryan said. "We drafted and signed him 10 years ago, so we've had him a long time. He's come through our system and has provided a lot of stability in our outfield. And he's played on a lot of our better teams here. So it is difficult, and I told him as much. He's been a good man for this organization for a lot of years."
"My emotions right now are all over the place, but I'm definitely excited," Span said in a conference call. "I feel very excited to be coming to Washington. A year-and-a-half ago, when I first heard the rumors [about being traded to the Nationals], I don't think I was ready for it. Fast-forward to now, I'm definitely ready to come to a team that is in place to win. I hope that I can come here and fit in."