With only one day left before the Winter Meetings officially begin and the Cubs signing free agent pitcher John Lackey on Friday, it’s already been a busy off-season.
Pitching has been the main focus of conversation, but the front office will undoubtedly be on the lookout for a new center fielder and possible leadoff hitter. Denard Span has been a name connected to the Cubs, so let’s take a look at what it may take to get him signed.
It’s not the first time that Span’s name has been linked to the club as there were reports that the Cubs were interested in acquiring him last year before trading for Dexter Fowler. The left-handed hitter is the prototypical center fielder most teams covet. In his career he’s batted .287/.352/.395 with 189 doubles, 55 triples, 37 home runs, 336 RBI and 152 stolen bases. Span also has never struck out more than 100 times in a season, with 89 being his highest total. He’s also a better defender than Fowler is in centerfield, with a 2.6 UZR/150 rating which is a little better than average. However, he has been below average over the past two seasons, but working in a smaller Wrigley Field should make things a little easier.
Span does come with risk though. Although he’s been fairly durable in his career, Span suffered an injury plagued season last year playing in just 70 games. Prior to the season starting, Span underwent a sports hernia surgery in December. During Spring Training, he underwent surgery again in his right core muscle and missed the start of the season. In July, Span missed six weeks due to back tightness and when he returned in late August went back on the disabled list three days later to undergo hip surgery.
Despite all the injuries, Span didn’t let them affect him at the plate as he batted .301/.365/.431 with 17 doubles, five home runs, 22 RBI and 11 stolen bases. At 32, it’s fair to wonder if those were all fluke injuries or if Span is starting to decline and break down.
Despite the uncertainty, he should still be able to net himself a nice contract thanks to not having a compensation draft pick attached and being one of the better options on the market. Because of that a three-year, $36 million deal has been projected, but a two-year deal could probably be had for a higher annual salary.
Angel Pagan is a very similar player to Span and netted himself a four-year, $40 million deal signed in his age-31 season. The switch hitter relied on his speed and defensive ability to make that money and while his speed is still useful, his defense has really dropped off the table and is more of a fourth outfielder these days.
Obviously, Span would be very helpful to a team like the Cubs in need of a centerfielder and leadoff hitter. The big question is if he can stay healthy enough to stay useful over a three-year period. Last season’s injury filled season is a major concern and a three-year deal seems pretty risky. If the Cubs can pull off a two-year deal for more money, similar to the John Lackey deal, Span may be worth taking a flier on so young players like Albert Almora Jr. can be given more time to develop. If Denard Span wants more years, it may be wise to take a pass.
Free Agent Profiles
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