But the Nationals weren’t willing to part with Storen, who’s pitching in his first full MLB season after being selected ninth in the 2009 MLB draft.
In Storen’s first full year as a MLB closer, he has 27 saves—which is 10th most in baseball.
Of those in the top 10 for saves, Storen ranks tied for first with New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in WHIP (walks plus hits over innings pitched), sixth in strikeout to walk ratio (3.31:1) and in ERA (2.75).
It would have been a no-brainer for the Twins to trade Span for Storen, but not the other way around.
Span was removed from the disabled list Monday after being out since June 7.
In the 56 games he did play this season Span posted a .294 batting average, 2 home runs, 15 RBI, 4 stolen bases and a .361 on base percentage.
All of which are solid stats for a leadoff hitter to post in the amount of time Span played (more steals would be ideal, but the rest are solid).
Since hitting .311 and posting a near .400 on base percentage (.392) in 2009, Span had a mediocre 2010 season (.264 batting average, .331 on base percentage, 3 home runs and 58 RBI) and has become expendable since the Twins called up outfield prospect Ben Revere, the No. 28 pick in the 2007 MLB Draft.
Revere’s statistics don’t match up to Span’s 2011 stats (Revere on the year: .252 batting average, .300 on base percentage, no home runs, 15 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 68 games and 250 at bats) but he’s still a rookie. He’s not supposed to have everything figured out yet.
Minnesota has been a franchise that’s prided itself on growing its own players, and Revere could be that next homegrown player.
But with Span in center field, that won’t happen in the near future. Span is under contract through the 2014 season with a team option for the 2015 season.
In 2012 Span will make $3 million, 2013 $4.75 million, $6 million in 2014 and if Minnesota picks up the team option in 2016 it will cost the franchise $9 million.
That’s a lot of dough to dish out, especially when Revere is a cheaper, up-and-coming version of Span.
Over five seasons in the minors, Revere never batted below .303 for a season, posted an on base percentage beneath .371 once (.338 this season), and posted three seasons of 36 steals or more.
Any team would love to see those numbers posted by its leadoff hitter.
When Revere was called up for the first time this season on May 10, ESPN’s Jason Grey, who does scouting for the company, wrote, “Revere can put up 40-steal seasons in the big leagues, if given a full-time job, with a good batting average to go with it.”
Grey also wrote of Revere's defense, “Revere is a plus defender in either left or center field, thanks to his range and ability to make up for the occasional bad route, though he does have a poor arm. Still, he will be an asset defensively, which will help keep his bat in the lineup.”
Span isn’t known for his arm either, so there’s no downgrade defensively.
But they weren’t willing to trade Span for anything but Storen, and Washington wasn’t willing to move its stud closer. Instead, the Nationals offered up their lone all-star for the 2011 season in reliever Tyler Clippard.
On the season, Clippard owns a 1.63 ERA, .82 WHIP and 74 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. He leads all of baseball with 27 holds—a stat that gives credit to a reliever who enters a game and maintains a lead for his team.
Minnesota’s relievers have been notoriously terrible. They own the worst ERA in baseball (4.74) and the third worst batting average allowed (.270).
Clippard could have been that stopper the Twins needed. Even if he didn’t help the Twins to the postseason in 2011, he could have been a valuable asset in years to come.
He’s only 26, and although his contract expires at season’s end, and it’s not like the Twins’ relief issues will go away next year.
Matt Capps and Joe Nathan, the team’s two closers this year, are free agents at the end of the year, and unless the team makes a splash in free agency, the bullpen could be worse next year if Capps and Nathan are gone.
The Twins missed out on an opportunity to improve their relievers, rid themselves of some salary, and enable a young player to get his at-bats in the big leagues.
With Span healthy again, Revere will be directed to a roll as fourth outfielder or sent back to the minors. Meanwhile, the Twins bullpen will still be in dire need of help.