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Friday, January 08, 2016

Denard Span finalizes 'Giant offseason

There was plenty of speculation over the last 3 weeks, after the Giants shored up their rotation with the addition of Jeff Samardzija followed with the big splash of Johnny Cueto, as to whether their moves for the winter were done. The answer was no!

The Giants came to terms with former Washington National' Denard Span on a 3-year contract Thursday. San Francisco had been monitoring Span closely all winter long and made it no secret that they were also looking at outfielders that may be able to take over center field everyday when Pagan's deal is up after '16. Well, in fact, with the Span signing, the Giants would be better off expediting that process a year and letting Span handle center field from day one. He's by far the superior defender to Pagan and that's one of the major reasons the Giants found him so appealing. They don't have any hot-shot defensive center fielders who's bat is anywhere near major league-ready in the lower levels, so they certainly needed someone beyond this season. Not only should he end up taking Pagan's role as the everyday center fielder, Bruce Bochy has to slot him into the leadoff spot in the Giants order and that should be a given. Span has had an OPS south of .342 just once over past 4 seasons while Pagan has reached that number just once in the same period.

I know these numbers don't necessarily mean much, but it is worth noting the newest Giant has also hit .310 with an OPS over .850 in his career vs. NL West pitching and has his average north of .300 hitting in the ballpark by the bay.

So yes, if that hip can keep healthy and keep him that dynamic presence on the base-paths as well as center field, then I think this is going to end up being a terrific deal. This was kind of a two-for-one for Bob Myers as he takes care of left field this year while also cementing the team's center fielder/leadoff opening that would have created next fall/winter. It will also allows guys like Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker to compete a bit in left if/when Angel Pagan goes down with his token DL appearance. Being in his last year of his contract, Pagan should be more than determined to have a big year, but at the same time the Giants aren't tied to him next year so if he's slow out of the gate he'll find himself on the hot seat early.

Today is all about Span though and when it comes down to my personal opinion, I do like Denard Span as a ballplayer. He reminds me almost of a left-handed, outfield version of Marco Scutaro as he's just such a tough out and just knows how to do all those little things to beat you. He's a decent leadoff hitter, but I don't think he's a great leadoff guy because he doesn't walk quite enough and his OBP isn't as steadily high as it should be. You wanna be getting on at a 35% or higher clip as a leadoff guy. If someone starts dipping into the .330's or lower and don't hit for any extra-base power or steal 35 bases it's tough to justify keeping said player in that role. Therefore, not only did the Giants upgrade the outfield defense with Span, but they improved the leadoff spot and quite drastically if Span reverts into his '14 version of himself. He's got the ability to be much more than just a typical, Juan Pierre-type leadoff guy (no knock on Pierre) and in that spacious yard, his legs could lead to huge offensive numbers.

Not saying Pagan is a terrible leadoff hitter, the Giants won two tittles with him in that spot the majority of the time, but they can do better, and I also like Pagan down in the lower part of the order anyway where he can let out some swing and reach that 12-15 HR potential he's got in him. All I'm saying is that if Denard Span is healthy and is performing at the level he was during his last injury free season in 2014 (.302/.355/.771) with that rock solid defense out in center than he's going to be an upgrade over Pagan in all facets.

Now, with that being said, although the Span signing does make the team better, and the 3-year/$31M commitment isn't necessarily going to handi-cap them in the future, but the last time they singed a player similar to Span (an outfielder to come in and leadoff) was David Roberts and that did that not work out so well. I certainly expect Span to be much better than Roberts, but will he be $8M better than Gregor Blanco will wind up being the real question? Span was certainly on my list of options the Giants should consider just because he's a good leadoff man and good center fielder, but ideally I wanted that big slugger like a Yeonis Cespedes, Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Upton but it just goes to show again, power hitters don't want to hit at AT&T Park. Plus, chances of Cespedes or Cargo were slim to none after the Giants shelled out just shy of $250M in contracts prior to the Span signing. So seeing what market they were able to compete in, and the player they ended up with, it doesn't look too bad. I don't know what Dexter Fowler would have cost them. I'm sure slightly more per season and probably another year or two and fact is, Span is a superior defender and a much better contact hitter than Fowler but Fowler is younger with more power and still a little more upside.

The big question for Denard will be keeping healthy. Had he not gotten hurt and missed 100 games with Washington last season, he probably would have found himself up there among the top-15 free agents this year. He was one pace for a .302/12/51/.796 slash with 29 swipes last season but was limited to just 62 games because of that same hip injury that the Giants are hoping he's well beyond.  Had he stayed healthy and put up numbers like that, he'd easily be looking at a $75-$100M deal he was looking like he'd be getting after his big 2014 campaign. So as long as he can get back close to that level, the Giants may have gotten themselves a steal at 3/$31M.

All in all, I give it a solid B. Would have loved to see a Cespedes or CarGo come to town, but since that wasn't likely, Span makes sense in more ways than one. Again the contract was friendly too and I've seen this guy get on at times and carry an offense. Certainly one of the more underrated leadoff men in the game. Oh by the way, better average, OBP, more RBI and HR than Brett Gardner who's  making $13M a year and many consider a solid leadoff man.
The Giants Baseball Blog


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