The Nationals traded outfielder Darnell McDonald to the Twins for the right to keep righthander Levale Speigner, a major league Rule 5 pick who had been with Washington all season. The Nationals designated Speigner for assignment on June 19 and, after he cleared waivers, offered him back to the Twins. Minnesota opted to take McDonald in trade, instead, freeing the Nationals to option Speigner to the minors.
The Big Leaguers
A 14th-round pick from Auburn in 2003, Speigner had risen to the Triple-A level in his four years in the Twins’ organization, going 3-2, 3.26 with 13 saves as closer for Double-A New Britain in 2006. The 26-year-old Speigner had shifted to the bullpen as a college senior and spent his first two pro seasons in the pen, where his lively 89-94 mph fastball and hard curveball played up. The Twins briefly moved Speigner to the rotation–he started 23 games for New Britain in 2005–but when placed in that role for the Nationals, he went just 1-3, 11.79 in six starts.
Also a top football prospect while at Cherry Creek High in Englewood, Colo., McDonald has been a regular on the Triple-A scene since 2001. The Orioles used the 26th pick in the 1997 draft to select McDonald, and while he didn’t pan out for them, leaving as a minor league free agent in 2004, he’s matured into a viable power-speed threat in the years since. The righthanded batter hit .292/.351/.435 with 14 homers and 30 stolen bases for Durham in 2006, and was off to a fine .315/.382/.431 start with 14 steals with Columbus this season.
Though Speigner struggled to an overall mark of 2-3, 8.78 in 40 big league innings, he has more value to a rebuilding organization like the Nationals. The Twins, meanwhile, get a fast, versatile outfielder who can help their Triple-A club or contribute off the big league bench, making this a sensible trade for both sides.