We should all be talking more about Denard Span. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
With B.J. Upton now a Brave, it is assumed the Phillies’ front office will consider the slew of other free agent outfielders left on the market to fill their gaping hole in center field.
Angel Pagan, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino all have varying pluses and minuses, and no matter what kind of “deal” Ruben Amaro might be able to swing on one or any of them, they’re all going to cost a pretty penny.
Pagan is a bit old, and although I think he’s easily the free agent that would be the best fit in the Phils’ lineup, his price tag has likely increased thanks to the spotlight of the 2012 postseason. Josh Hamilton provides power and on-base ability, but his age, durability, and off-field history gives the team pause. Bourn’s age, expected price tag and propensity for strikeouts limit the enthusiasm to bring him back to Philadelphia. And the Phils have already been down the Victorino road.
However, there is one center fielder not named Pagan, Hamilton, Bourn or Victorino that could be the perfect fit for the Phillies.
Eric Seidman from Fangraphs.com did an excellent write-up on Span, the 28-year-old smooth-fielding center fielder and lead-off hitter for the Twinkies, noting his game is comparable to all the big name free agents.
"Span has played in just 198 games over the last two seasons. He missed most of the 2011 season with a recurring case of vertigo brought about by a previous concussion. He spent time on the shelf this past season with a shoulder injury. An initial MRI on his shoulder was delayed due to his claustrophobia, and his injury followed a common theme with former trainer Rick McWane: Span was disabled for over a week before the team actually placed him on the disabled list. When healthy, he is a heck of a baseball player, but he simply hasn’t been on the field as often as many of the other available center fielders."
No one wants to trade for a player that has trouble staying on the field. However, Span’s talent and his play when he is healthy, makes him an intriguing trade target.
Span is a terrific lead-off hitter, who hit .283 with a .342 on base percentage in 128 games and 568 plate appearances last year and was a 4.8 WAR player for Minnesota in 2012. For his career, Span has gotten on base at a .357 clip, and has never struck out more than 89 times in a season. He’ll also enter the 2013 season at 29 years old, the same age as B.J. Upton.
|162 Game Avg.||162||735||647||99||184||29||10||6||63||25||8||70||88||.284||.357||.389||.746||104|
And while Span wouldn’t provide the power the Phils so desperately need, he would give the team a bona fide leadoff hitter, play excellent defense at a premium position, and give the Phillies the financial flexibility to sign a corner outfielder that can provide the missing power.
August 3, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Denard Span (2) heads back to the dugout after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE
His price tag is right on the money, with Span set to earn $4.75 million in 2013 and $6.5 million in 2014. There is also a team option of $9 million for 2015, with the earliest he can become a free agent after the 2015 season, provided the option is picked up.
The Phils would only be committed to paying Span just over $11 million over the next two season. And when compared to the kind of money the remaining free agents could cost, trading for Span makes both economic and baseball sense.
Of course the big question is, why would the Twins want to trade a player as talented and cost effective as Span, and what would they want back in terms of prospects? Minnesota wants to make room for minor league star first baseman/right fielder Chris Parmelee, and to do so, would need to move one of Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Ben Revere or Span. And the Twins desperately need pitching and middle infielders, a commodity the Phillies do have to some degree.
A deal for Span would likely be centered around either Trevor May or Brody Colvin and perhaps one of Cesar Hernandez or Roman Quinn. Perhaps a Major League piece like Vance Worley would have to be included as well.
Would Worley, Colvin and Quinn for Span get it done? The Twins would get a legitimate #3 or 4 starter in Worley, a potential middle-of-the rotation starter in Colvin and a possible second base or shortstop prospect in Hernandez or Quinn.
The Phils’ farm system is not among the best in the Majors, so there are other teams that might be willing and able to offer more. But that could be a pretty good jumping off point for Amaro.
Of course, trading for a guy who has missed much of the last two years to injury is risky. But Span’s age, cost, and skill set would all be attractive to the Phils, perhaps more so than any free agent remaining on the market.