Denard Span Rumors
For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time...
- The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
- The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
- Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
- The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
- Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
- The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
- The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
- Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
- The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
- Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
- There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
- "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
- Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.
The risk and reward that comes with signing an extension before or during a player’s first year of arbitration can be a tricky one. Players can take the guaranteed money and set themselves up for life or play out the arbitration years and try to cash in with a bigger payday down the road. Washington’s Denard Span, Kurt Suzuki and Gio Gonzalez all signed early extensions and talked to MLBTR about their decisions.
Outfielder Denard Span (Signed a five-year, $16.25MM deal with Minnesota in March 2010):
“It was after my first full season in the big leagues, after the '09 season. It took me a little bit of time to get to the Major Leagues, I didn’t get there at 20 or 21 years old, so at the time the Twins came to me about the extension, it just made sense for me and my family. We realized what we possibly were leaving on the table if I had good years but we also thought about the risk of if I got hurt or anything like that. It just made sense for my situation.
“My agent set out numbers and I remember after my best year in '09, he said if you just do this for the next two, three years and don’t take this contract, this is what you would get in arbitration so we compared the numbers and it was a little bit of a discount to take the contract at the time and he put that out there, but the decision was ultimately my decision.
“I’ve been on the DL the past few years so I’d like to think it worked out fine but there’s so many unknowns and that’s the risk you take when you're dealing with any kind of guaranteed contract, whether to take it or play your cards and wait for that big payday.
“I wouldn’t say it was an easy decision. It was something that me and my family had to pray about. It was a situation where we felt like if I were to get hurt and never play again, at least all the hard work that I’ve put forth in this game, I’d at least have something to walk away from. That was one of the determining factors. I realized that when this contract is up, I wouldn’t be naturally young but I wouldn’t be old. I’m going to be 31, lord willing when I’m a free agent, so what I didn’t get in the beginning, I believe that I’m going to get at the end.”
Catcher Kurt Suzuki (Signed a four-year, 16.25MM deal with Oakland in July 2010):
“It’s a tough decision obviously. At the time you work so had to get to a point to where you're starting to get paid I guess and I think I was signed during my last season before arbitration, so it was the year leading up to arbitration, and obviously I knew I was going to arbitration next year but the multi-year deal, to have the security for your family, it was hard to look that much money in the mirror and say I don’t want it, I’m going to wait. You get security for your family. It’s a pretty good chunk of change. It was hard to turn down. Some guys take that route and some guys don’t. I thought it was a deal where I felt it was enough security for my family and I. I was married at the time.
“Obviously if you sign a long term deal before arbitration years, you’re going to have to take a discount because you’re obviously not in line to make the money yet. You’re kind of predicting the future so you have to take a little bit of a discount but at the same time, how much of a discount you want to take, you have to ask yourself and what are you happy with. After deciding with my wife, we felt OK with taking the deal and having that security.
“You break it down and you have comparables. My case was a little different because they said I didn’t have many comparables. I don’t know, they just said there wasn’t many people to compare me with that signed multi-year deals so like Russell Martin was a comparable but he didn’t sign a multi-year deal so it was kind of hard to gauge off somebody for a deal.
“There’s a risk. It was an amount that my wife and I felt comfortable with and it was worth taking. Later on I might have been looking to make more, obviously if I went year to year, but at the same time, we felt that money was sufficient enough to take the deal. I’m happy with how it worked out. Obviously there’s a chance you could have made more money but at the same time, with how things [worked] out I think it was a good deal.
“Denard and I talk about it all the time. He comes from Minnesota who has the similar philosophies as Oakland to try and lock players up long term before their arbitration years and we talked about giving up money but we also talked about how its hard to turn that much money down because you’re making a really good amount of money. The Major League minimum is a really good amount, but when you’re talking millions of dollars, to turn that down is tough to do. When you get offered that much money in your face, what are you going to do?”
Pitcher Gio Gonzalez (Signed a five-year, $42MM deal with Washington in January 2012, a record at the time for a first-year arbitration eligible pitcher. He was traded from Oakland just a month earlier):
“I looked at as you know what? The organization gave me a chance to play and Mike Rizzo (Nationals GM) believed in me from the beginning and he gave me something that I felt was reasonable and gave me an opportunity and I said why not? The only way to keep getting up there and is keep improving and try to make the best of it.
“You also look at the team and the guys that were coming up, you had Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, you had all these guys and the pieces they were putting together, I felt like that rotation was going to get better and better and I was like why not be a part of it?
“I think it was just me wanting to play baseball and I think it helped secure my family and me and it almost was to the point where it was like, you can roll the dice and see what happens, but you can never promise tomorrow. I was more excited to play here than anything. It was a new team, new uniform, I think the thing that really drove me to want to play here more was the fact that ‘Rizz’ believed in me from the beginning. He didn’t question anything and he gave me a opportunity and I felt like he gave me a great price for what was reasonable. He didn’t skyrocket me but he got me right where I needed to be to go out there and prove my performance.
“I liked it. Like I said, nothing is promised tomorrow. I think what ‘Rizz’ did was more than reasonable. He thought it was fair, I thought it was fair. We worked both sides out with no complaints. I was ready to grab a baseball and start pitching. Trust me, I was thinking way beyond the money. I was thinking more like World Series. Let’s go. Great rotation, great offense and defense. I was more than happy to play for them.”
Here's the latest news and stories making headlines out of Washington...
- Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals continue to discuss financial figures for the right-hander, but the two sides remain far apart in their conversations, says Amanda Comak of The Washington Times (on Twitter). While Zimmermann would be open to a long-term contract, he wants to first address his arbitration deal for the upcoming season, according to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com (via Twitter).
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says there's nothing new to report regarding free agent Javier Vazquez's status, writes Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com (on Twitter). The veteran made mention of his desire to play for a contender earlier this month, but stated that he would not rush into signing with a team.
- Outfielder Denard Span, acquired this offseason from the Twins, enters the season highly optimistic about the Nationals' chances come October, says Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
The Nationals avoided the busy free agent center field market by acquiring Denard Span from the Twins today in exchange for highly-touted pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Here is some of the early buzz about the trade and how it affects the Nationals, Twins and several other teams around the league...
- The trade seems to leave Adam LaRoche without a spot in the Nationals' lineup, meaning the first baseman could go elsewhere as a free agent. In a conference call with reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider), Washington GM Mike Rizzo said the trade "gives us some options" with player moves and noted that the team is still talking to LaRoche. Rizzo said teams have called about Michael Morse, so the Nats could potentially re-sign LaRoche and deal Morse instead.
- While a Morse trade is a possibility, some executives feel the Span deal will lead to LaRoche signing with the Red Sox, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports looks at how the trade impacts LaRoche, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and the Phillies.
- The trade was "a huge win" for the Nationals, opines Fangraphs' Dave Cameron, who thinks Minnesota could've gotten more than Meyer in exchange for an affordable center fielder. "The Twins got a real talent back in return for Span, but it’s a talent with too many question marks to be the piece they’re getting back in return for a three win player under team control at a fraction of his market price," Cameron writes.
- Conversely, ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) likes the trade for the Twins. The club sorely needs young pitching and Meyer's potential is worth "an average regular in center whose value will fluctuate with his BABIP," as Law describes Span. Law also notes that this deal should help the Rockies get more in a trade for Dexter Fowler, as Fowler is younger and has more power than Span.
With B.J. Upton now a Brave and Denard Span now a National, the Reds' outfield/leadoff hitter options are thinning out, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The Reds tried to acquire Span from the Twins at last year's trade deadline, though Sheldon hadn't heard anything about the Reds continuing their pursuit for Span this winter. Sheldon believes Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan are too expensive for the Reds and Shane Victorino may be as well, though Cincinnati is one of at least seven teams who have shown interest in Victorino's services.
Here are some more items about of the Queen City...
- In a separate piece from Sheldon, the Reds' recent history of locking up young players before free agency makes Mat Latos and Homer Bailey seem like extension candidates this winter. In his recent look at Cincinnati's arb-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted that Bailey's injury history may keep the Reds from pursuing a multiyear deal with the righty, while Latos could receive a five-year, $60MM extension, though predicting a new Latos deal is difficult due to a lack of comparables.
- Dustin Bledsoe, Latos' agent, tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds have yet to approach his client about an extension.
- Also from Fay, he hears from agent Dan Horwits that the Reds have "been in contact" with his client Ryan Ludwick about a possible return to Cincinnati. "There’s interest on both sides. Hopefully, we can [get] something done. We’re talking to other clubs. He has offers from other clubs,” Horwits said.
Span, 28, provides the Nationals with an established center fielder. His presence will presumably keep Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in outfield corners. It could also impact the Nationals' interest in Adam LaRoche, since Michael Morse's primary position might now be first base. Alternatively, the Nationals could move Morse to a team seeking offense and continue pursuing LaRoche.
Span posted a .283/.342/.395 batting line in 568 plate appearances with Minnesota in 2012, numbers that compare closely to his career mark of .284/.357/.389. The five-year MLB veteran will earn $4.75MM in 2013 and $6.5MM in 2014. His contract includes a $9MM club option for 2015 with a $500K buyout.
Meyer, the 23rd overall selection of the 2011 draft, pitched well in 2012, his lone season as a pro. He pitched at Class A, posting a 2.86 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 129 innings. The 6'9" 22-year-old might rank sixth among Twins prospects, John Manuel of Baseball America notes (on Twitter).
Here's the latest from the NL East...
- Carl Pavano told Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post that he'd love to return to the Marlins in 2013. His agent, Dave Pepe, has spoken to the team recently, but it's unclear if that will lead to a contract.
- The Braves agreed to sign B.J. Upton earlier today, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears the team discussed the idea of both signing Upton and trading for Denard Span (Twitter link). Talks with the Twins failed to progress, however.
- "Watch out for the Phillies to surprise everyone and sign [Josh] Hamilton,'' said an agent to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). Crasnick notes that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is fond of big splashes.
- The Mets should trade David Wright, argues MLB.com's Matthew Leach. He says the third baseman's value will never be higher, and the team needs an infusion of young talent.
Here's the latest on the Twins, courtesy of ESPN 1500's Darren Wolfson...
- "No. Obviously I love playing here. I love the city. I love the people. Hopefully it doesn't become a distraction," said Justin Morneau when asked if the team has approached his agent about an extension. The slugger can become a free agent next offseason, and he said he hopes to remain with the Twins through 2013.
- The Twins have touched base with approximately 20 free agent pitchers so far, though a source downplayed their interest in a reunion with Francisco Liriano.
- "Look for an active (Winter Meetings)," said one of Wolfson's sources. There's a belief Denard Span could be traded.
- Carl Pavano's representatives will meet with the Twins during the Winter Meetings in Nashville next week. The right-hander's shoulder was cleared by doctors recently.
- The Twins are looking for a third baseman. They could shift Trevor Plouffe to the outfield or find a left-handed hitting platoon partner.
Here are the latest hot stove items from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal....
- Teams in search of bullpen help have been looking at Royals right-handers Greg Holland and Aaron Crow, though Kansas City isn't likely to trade any of its Major League players unless they can move Jeff Francoeur.
- The Royals bolstered their pitching staff by re-signing Jeremy Guthrie and trading for Ervin Santana, but Rosenthal still feels the team needs a true ace.
- The Phillies are interested in free agent reliever Koji Uehara.
- The Diamondbacks could deal Jason Kubel instead of Justin Upton, which would be an easier move to make though Kubel would bring back a lesser return. A source tells Rosenthal that the Rangers are still interested in Upton but are waiting for the D'Backs to back down on their demands for Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in return.
- Denard Span could be a good trade target for a club that doesn't want to pay for one of the expensive center fielders on the free market. With the Twins desperate for pitching, Rosenthal speculates that a team like the Braves (who need a center fielder and have pitching depth) could be a trade partner.
- The free agent catching market is stalled since the Red Sox and Blue Jays have catchers available for trade, plus the Yankees are waiting to address their pitching before making a decision on Russell Martin.
- Speaking of the Blue Jays' catching depth, Rosenthal thinks that Toronto is in no hurry to deal J.P. Arencibia, as a dependable catcher is needed if top prospect Travis D'Arnaud hasn't recovered from his season-ending knee injury.
- Reed Johnson is drawing interest from several teams, including the Braves, who acquired Johnson from the Cubs last July.
Here's the latest from the home of the American League champion Tigers....
- The Twins might not receive much more than a No. 4 starter in exchange for Josh Willingham, an AL executive tells Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities Radio. "There's no doubt Josh has a very good contract, but I really doubt a team would trade a viable starting pitcher for a guy with a strong bat but who is limited defensively," the executive said. "It's a lot easier to find a left-field or DH-type than to trade a good starting pitcher for one and then have to backfill the rotation spot." The 33-year-old Willingham is owed $14MM through 2014 and posted an .890 OPS last season, but another AL executive says Denard Span is a better trade chip for Minnesota.
- The Orioles have asked the Twins and Royals about Willingham and designated hitter Billy Butler, reports MLB.com's Paul Hagen. Both the Twins and Royals are desperate for pitching and while the O's have some good young arms, I don't think Baltimore has the pitching depth to spare in either the majors or minors.
- The Tigers want to keep backup catcher Gerald Laird but he will probably leave for a team that will give him more playing time, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- The Tigers are generally active early in the offseason, though FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link) thinks this won't be the case this winter as the club's plans were pushed back by their World Series appearance.
- Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as a good trade target for the Cardinals, and he suggests a few young Cards prospects who could go to Cleveland in exchange for the All-Star.