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Denard Span Rumors
In the course of a broader post, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported several opt-out dates for veteran Braves pitchers in camp on minor league deals. Lefty Eric Stults can exercise his clause on April 3, just prior to Opening Day, while Chien-Ming Wang does not have the right to make himself a free agent until July 1.
Here’s more from Atlanta and the rest of the NL East:
- Though the Braves have had plenty of discussion with the representatives for Hector Olivera, the club is indicating that it will not spend a “huge” amount of money for the free agent infielder, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.
- The Nationals will face an early-season challenge now that center fielder Denard Span is set to miss significant time after undergoing surgery for a “right core muscle” injury, as Chelsea James of the Washington Post reports. A “league medical official” tells James that the surgery is particularly concerning since it comes right on the heels of a December sports hernia procedure. The immediate effect of the injury is to provide a full-time audition for prospect Michael Taylor. Depending upon how it proceeds, it could impact Washington’s trade deadline needs and Span’s upcoming free agency.
- Yankees starter CC Sabathia tells MLB Network Radio (audio link) that he is at “one hundred percent” health at this point. He expects his next outing to be live game action after throwing a simulated game today. Sabathia is just one of several high-variable starting pitchers in the New York stable. His ability to bounce back this year will go a long way not only towards determining the club’s short-term success, but also toward assessing the value the team can hope to return out of the $30MM in guaranteed money (and potential for $20MM more through a vesting clause) left on Sabathia’s deal.
8:54am: Span won’t resume baseball activities for four to six weeks, manager Matt Williams told reporters, including Janes (Twitter link). Taylor will see the bulk of playing time in center field this spring in his absence.
7:33am: The Nationals announced on Monday that center fielder Denard Span underwent surgery to repair a right core muscle injury (Twitter link). The recovery timeframe for this surgery can sometimes be as short as a month — Brett Gardner had a similar procedure in October and had a four-week recovery period, per ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand — so it’s possible that Span would be in game shape by about Opening Day. Others, such as Justin Verlander, who had the surgery prior to the 2014 season, had a six week recovery period (via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian).
Even if Span were to be in game shape in four weeks, I’d imagine he’d still open the season on the DL, as he’d need some time to get up to speed in Triple-A after missing virtually all of Spring Training. Span had already undergone surgery this offseason to repair a sports hernia, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, who adds that Span showed no noticeable ill effects from the operation in an 0-for-2 performance in the spring opener against the Mets.
The 31-year-old Span is entering his third season as the Nationals’ center fielder after being acquired from the Twins in a swap for top prospect Alex Meyer. He’s enjoyed a pair of very nice seasons in D.C., particularly last year, when he hit .302/.355/.416 with five homers, 31 steals and a National-League-leading 184 hits.
In addition to hoping for a quick recovery to help the Nationals, who are considered by most to be favorites in the NL East, Span has personal motivation to get back on the field soon as well. He’s slated to hit the free agent market next winter for the first time in his career. Span originally signed a five-year, $16.5MM extension with the Twins, and the Nats made the easy call to exercise his $9MM option for the 2015 season this winter. He’ll be in competition with younger options such as Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson and Colby Rasmus on next year’s free agent market.
If Span is indeed unable to open the season with the team, the Nationals have some options. Nate McLouth and top prospect Michael Taylor are both on the 40-man roster. McLouth himself may not be ready, as Janes wrote in this morning’s Post that he is still recovering from right shoulder surgery and has yet to see game action this spring, although he is close. As far as non-roster invitees go, Tony Gwynn Jr. is an excellent defender and could be leaned upon to help bridge the gap if necessary. Keep in mind, too, that the Nats are also waiting on Jayson Werth to recovery from early January shoulder surgery, so two of their three projected starters in the outfield may not be ready to kick off the season.
If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.
In other news from the NL East:
- Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
- With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
- Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”
- The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that there’s no progress to report in potential contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, and Denard Span, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com. Here’s a look at more out of the NL East..
- Rizzo told Ladson that teams are showing interest in Clippard. The right-handed reliever has spent most of his career as a setup man but has some experience as a closer too. He’s projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $9.3MM in his final spin through arbitration.
- The Mets are interested in Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, tweets Matt Ehalt of The Record. Kang is expected to be posted later this week. As we learned earlier this evening, GM Sandy Alderson alluded that Kang could be out of the club’s price range. As for left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, the Mets’ interest is “overblown.”
- Mets farm director Jon Miller will leave the organization at the end of the year, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) hears that Miller is already done with the club.
- Rizzo sounds like a man who is ready to make some moves. “We’re open for business,” the Nationals GM said, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
Only three free agents make Jayson Stark’s list of the top 10 players to watch during the Winter Meetings, reflecting the feeling from several baseball executives that the trade front could be much busier than the free agency front in the coming days. Jon Lester is the key domino in the process, as in the words of one NL executive, “he sets the free-agent market and kick-starts the trade market. Depending on when he signs, he could create the greatest Winter Meetings in decades or the most boring.” Here’s some more from ESPN’s Stark…
- “The most widespread front-office conspiracy theory” sees the Nationals trading Jordan Zimmermann and then signing Max Scherzer. This scenario is “so obvious it makes me question if it’s real,” one GM said. Clearly a lot of factors would have to fall into place for the Nats to pull this off, though they’re known to be listening to offers for Zimmermann, who will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, is known for waiting until deep into the offseason to find a preferred deal for his clients, which could give Washington more time to line up a Zimmermann trade.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals are also listening to offers for Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Tyler Clippard. All of these players can hit free agency after 2015, making Washington the “team with the potential to make the biggest deal of the offseason. And maybe not just one,” Stark writes.
- The Tigers are “listening intently” to offers for David Price and Rick Porcello, though they’ll only deal one of the two, and Detroit would only move Price if they can re-sign Scherzer. “The Tigers have made it clear they aren’t subtracting any starting pitchers unless they have a replacement lined up,” Stark writes. I’d note that the newly-acquired Shane Greene could be such a potential replacement for Porcello, who Stark says is the more likely to be traded than Price.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has told teams interested in Cole Hamels to make an offer if they wish, but the Phils are waiting to see where the big free agent arms go before they seriously start exploring a Hamels trade. Several teams have said the Phillies’ asking price for Hamels is far too high, and one rival official tells Stark that the pitching market is too deep for the Phillies to expect both top prospects and Hamels’ entire contract to be absorbed in a deal.
- Jeff Samardzija is likelier to be dealt before Hamels, one executive predicts, since the Athletics are more aggressively shopping their right-hander. We’ve already heard that the White Sox, to name one team, have discussed a Samardzija trade with the A’s. One exec warns that the A’s could have trouble finding their desired return for Samardzija, since “it’s just hard to give up a lot of value for a one-year pitcher.”
- The Red Sox are open to trading any position player except for Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo and Christian Vazquez, Stark writes. It also goes without saying that David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia won’t be dealt, not to mention the newly-signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
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Neither of those moves surprised, either. Soriano struggled in the second half and lost his closer job, and never was really in contention to have his $14MM tab paid. LaRoche, meanwhile, will get a $2MM buyout. While it may have made sense to exercise the $15MM option in other circumstances, Washington is expected to shift Ryan Zimmerman over to first.
2:26pm: The Nationals have exercised center fielder Denard Span‘s $9MM option, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Span, 30, will now enter his final season of team control before hitting the market after the year.
This news comes as no surprise, as Span put up an outstanding all-around year in his second campaign with the Nats. He led the league with 184 hits and slashed .302/.355/.416 in 668 turns at bat. Span also contributed a career-best 31 stolen bases.
Even with some defensive metrics looking down on his work in center — which, it should be noted, goes against the views of some observers — he was nearly a 4-win player in the view of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. By measure of Baseball Prospectus’s WARP figure, Span tallied 5.7 wins above replacement.
Even better for Span and the Nats: since coming over from Minnesota, Span has only missed time sporadically while remaining an everyday presence in the lineup. While a slight step back in production may be expected, it is worth noting that Span produced at this level earlier in his career before concussion issues struck.
Span, of course, was acquired from Minnesota prior to the 2013 season in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Though the Twins are only just preparing to see how their end of the deal that will pay out, the Nationals are surely happy that it was such an easy decision to pick up this option.
Here’s the latest out of the National League …
- The Diamondbacks are close to reaching agreement with first-round pick Touki Toussaint, reports MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “Touki I think is very close right now,” said GM Kevin Towers. “… Pretty optimistic we’ll get something done here shortly.” Toussaint, who was taken 16th overall (with a $2,338,200 slot bonus), was rated between the eighth (MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) and thirteenth (ESPN.com’s Keith Law) best player available, with Law saying he could have the most upside of any of the draft-eligible high school righties.
- Even if the Phillies decide to sell, it may prove difficult, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In particular, many of the team’s veteran players have not only no-trade protection but also vesting options (some of which appear more achievable than others) at the back ends of their already-sizeable contracts. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated, however, that those contracts should not be a major hindrance if the team shops its best players. “[W]e have taken money back on deals before and will do it again if we have to,” says Amaro.
- The Pirates rotation is looking increasingly thin, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Injuries have accumulated on top of an already poor start to the year, and unlike last year the club lacks obvious internal replacements to step in and provide a boost. Though some attractive arms figure to be made available at the trade deadline, Biertempfel indicates that Pittsburgh seems unlikely to pay the price (in dollars and in prospects) to add an impact starter.
- Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley says he is exceedingly unlikely to throw again this year, as Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times reports. Billingsley has been diagnosed with a partially torn flexor tendon. “If I do the rehab I would have a chance,” he said, “but the risk would be … tendon fails, that’s a six-month rehab after surgery. Doing three years’ rehab would be a grind.” As that quote indicates, it has already been a long road for Billingsley and his troubled right arm. He is in the last year of a three-year, $35MM pact that includes a $14MM club option for 2015. It seems highly likely at this point, of course, that Los Angeles will instead pay a $3MM buyout and let Billingsley hit the open market.
- The Cardinals are currently hesitant to go shopping for a starter, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). St. Louis still has internal options for the rotation (such as Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez) and probably will not meet the asking price for top-end arms. One team that could be in the market for rotation help is the Marlins, Rosenthal adds.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says that the club is not looking to deal Denard Span or Adam LaRoche to allow Ryan Zimmerman to stay in left field when Bryce Harper returns, Rosenthal reports. Span remains an interesting name to watch, however, as Rosenthal notes. The outstanding defensive center fielder has failed to reach base reliably from the top of the lineup, but is under control through next season with a fairly reasonable $9MM team option.
In his latest Notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines that the Rockies shouldn’t be buyers at this summer’s trade deadline. While the club could make a Wild Card run, he writes that the team isn’t a serious World Series contender. Rosenthal feels that the club should look to move Jhoulys Chacin — who could be a non-tender candidate this offseason — to clear room for one of its top pitching prospects (likely either Jon Gray or Eddie Butler). The bigger, and certainly bolder move posited by Rosenthal is to deal Carlos Gonzalez in order to clear room for everyday at-bats for Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. With Kyle Parker and a number of other outfield prospects on the horizon, plus Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs as reserve options, the team has plenty of outfield depth. Gonzalez is also owed $53MM following this season. Rosenthal notes that ownership has never shown an inclination to move Gonzalez, however, so the Rockies likely don’t share his point of view on the future of their star outfielder.
More from his latest piece…
- Most agents with whom Rosenthal has spoken feel that Jon Singleton sold himself short by agreeing to a five-year, $10MM contract extension that could reach $30MM with three club options and $35MM if he hits enough performance bonuses. First base prospects are among the safest variety of prospects, and while some bust, Singleton will earn scarcely more than the current MLB average salary, over the life of his deal on an annual basis (assuming all options are exercised).
- Rosenthal feels that the Cardinals should look to add a big-name starting pitcher such as James Shields or David Price at the deadline (should either become available, which is no guarantee, of course). While pitching certainly isn’t a need for the Redbirds, it’s not exactly clear where they’d place another bat upon acquiring one. And, given the team’s wealth of prospects at multiple positions, they could move valuable assets that are essentially spare parts to their own organization.
- Ryan Zimmerman projects to play first base for the Nationals next season, but Rosenthal asks what might happen if Washington instead decides to keep Adam LaRoche. Doing so could push Zimmerman to left field full-time, with Bryce Harper manning center field, Jayson Werth in right field and Denard Span becoming a trade chip. Span has a $9MM club option and a “limited”future with the club given the presence of Michael Taylor (not to be confused with the former A’s prospect of the same name) at Double-A, writes Rosenthal.
Denard Span was surprised to hear his name come up again in trade rumors, MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes. Span has been with the Nationals less than a year, having arrived from Minnesota in a trade for prospect Alex Meyer last November 29. "My first reaction was, 'Here we go again,'" says Span. "I dealt with trade rumors the last two years. It surprised me because I've been in Washington for one year. The guys in Washington have been trying to get me for a while, and to hear rumors this quick after one year is surprising." Span hit .279/.327/.380 in his first year in Washington, a bit below his career averages. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Carlos Ruiz might be a good fit with the Red Sox, suggests FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal hears that one team has already offered Ruiz somewhere in the vicinity of two years and $20MM, and he thinks that team could be the Red Sox. By signing Ruiz rather than Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston would avoid committing to a contract of more than two years. Signing a catcher for three years or more might not be ideal, with prospects Blake Swihart and/or Christian Vazquez potentially ready to help in the next couple years.
- Marlon Byrd's deal with the Phillies signals how difficult it will be for the Mets to find power this offseason, Newsday's Marc Carig writes. Byrd's contract, which could balloon to $24MM through 2016 if he can stay on the field, followed in the footsteps of Jose Dariel Abreu's $68MM deal with the White Sox, as well as Hunter Pence's $90MM contract with the Giants. Carig notes, though, that the frenzy for power hitters could be beneficial to the Mets in one respect — Lucas Duda and Ike Davis might be able to fetch a decent return on the trade market, despite their deficiencies.
Officials of competing clubs say that the Nationals appear willing to listen to offers on center fielder Denard Span, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The 29-year-old came to Washington via trade from the Twins, who received pitching prospect Alex Meyer in the deal.
Featuring stellar defense and a league-average bat (.279/.327/.380, 97 wRC+ in 2013), Span also swiped twenty bases last year. Most importantly, he comes with a very attractive contract that would fit in most teams' budgets, making Span a widely attractive trade target. He will be paid $6.5MM next year under the deal, which inludes a 2015 club option at $9MM with only a $500k buyout.
Presumably, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo would only seriously entertain the possibility of dealing Span if he wanted to clear room for a major acquisition. Though Heyman mentions the possibility of the Nats chasing Jacoby Ellsbury, it is also worth bearing in mind that the club could hypothetically add a corner outfielder and shift Bryce Harper to center. At this point, though, it is probably unwise to read too much into the report, as Rizzo could just be gauging how the market values his leadoff man.