The Orioles have “some level of interest” in free agent outfielder Denard Span, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. It isn’t clear exactly how deep this interest is, Kubatko notes, though Span’s name has been discussed within Baltimore’s front office with some pro-Span voices feeling he would be a fit as the team’s new right fielder.
Span has only played in 124 games in right during his career and none since 2009, though his normal center field spot obviously isn’t an option in Baltimore due to Adam Jones‘ presence. Advanced metrics like UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved paint Span as a strong defensive center fielder for much of his career but he’s been below-average in both categories in each of the last two seasons, so a move to right may be necessary anyway as he enters his age-32 season.
Switching to a less-strenuous outfield position may also help keep Span off the DL, which is no small matter in the wake of his injury-plagued 2015 season. Between recovering from offseason core muscle surgery, a bad back and then hip surgery in late August, Span played in just 61 games for Washington last year. The good news is that when he did play, he was still very effective (.301/.365/.431 in 275 PA and a perfect 11-for-11 in steals) and he would fill a void for Baltimore as a leadoff hitter with on-base skills. Kubatko implies that Span’s health is the Orioles’ biggest concern in deciding whether or not to sign him — while every team undoubtedly weighs such factors, the O’s have been very particular in the past about avoiding players with injury red flags.
Span’s shortened 2015 lowered his price tag, though MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes still projected Span to receive a three-year, $39MM deal this winter. A contract in that range seems reasonable for a medium-spending team like Baltimore, though between four guaranteed contracts and a large arbitration class, the O’s already have around $93MM committed to next year’s payroll and they still need to address both corner outfield slots, the starting rotation, bullpen and first base.
That last position could be filled if the Orioles were to re-sign Chris Davis, though he would account for another $20MM+ in salary. The O’s have also been rumored to be interested in signing Yovani Gallardo or in trading for Jay Bruce or Neil Walker, so the team certainly appears to be weighing all options in deciding how to address its various roster holes.