Washington Nationals Editorial: Nats Made Right Call Not Giving Denard Span 3-Year Deal


The Washington Nationals saw Denard Span go to the San Francisco Giants, but they made the right decision not going three years on a deal.

Throughout the last three seasons, the Washington Nationals had a good sparkplug at the top of the order in Denard Span. Span hit .292 in the nation’s capital, but now he will be manning center field in a new home ballpark. Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants signed Span to a three-year, $31 million deal.

Span now slides into the top of the order for the Giants as they look to win their fourth World Series in six years and continue their trend of winning the title in even years (2010, 2012, 2014). Scott Boras was able to get his client a three-year deal despite Span having injuries to his core muscle, back, and hip during this past season.

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The Nationals acquired Span from the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Alex Meyer in November of 2012. He had 11 triples in 2013 and then in 2014, he finished sixth in the National League in batting average (.302) and led the league in hits (184).

It was clear that the Nats missed him in their lineup in 2015 when you consider the team was 36-25 when Span was playing center field. However, this is a decision where I think Mike Rizzo and the front office made the right call in not going three years on Span, who will be 32 at the start of next season.

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Yes, Span proved he had a lot of value to the team, but three years is a gamble for a player coming off hip surgery. Washington does have Michael Taylor in center field and they have looked at other outfield options in free agency, such as Gerardo Parra. Yesterday, at Daniel Murphy’s press conference (before the Span news), president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo talked about the confidence he has in Taylor at center field:

With Span now officially out of the fold, the Nationals will need to find an everyday leadoff hitter. Trea Turner is not an option for now since he will be in triple-A. Dusty Baker could always turn to Jayson Werth or Anthony Rendon, but keep in mind, with Span out for the bulk of the season in 2015, Washington stole 57 bases as a team (second fewest in the National League).

Span’s impact in the lineup will be missed, but it’s tough to blame the Washington Nationals for not going to that third year to bring Span back. If Taylor can continue to develop as a center fielder and cut down on the strikeouts at the plate, he has the speed to help the Nats as a possible leadoff option.

That being said, by likely losing two of their top three stolen base threats (Ian Desmond and Span), it will be up to Taylor to provide the speed for this offense, at least right now. In the end, Span was able to find a team comfortable to give him three years and the Nationals still have other options that they could add to their outfield. It’s a win-win for both sides, but the Nats will miss Span in the short-term.