The Mariners have declined their $12MM option on outfielder Denard Span and will instead pay him a $4MM buyout, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (on Twitter). Span will re-enter free agency and look for a new team with which to spend his 12th big league season.
[Related: Updated Seattle Mariners depth chart]
Span will turn 35 in February but demonstrated in 2018 that he can still produce at an above-average level with the bat. In a total of 501 plate appearances between the Mariners and the Rays, he slashed a combined .261/.341/.419 with 11 homers, 22 doubles and seven triples — good for a 112 OPS+ and wRC+ (essentially indicating that his bat was 12 percent better than a league-average hitter after adjusting for league and home park). He’s not the speedster that he used to be, but Span still swiped nine bags in 13 tries and received positive marks in baserunning, via Fangraphs (+2.4 BsR).
From a defensive standpoint, Span showed his age with a rough season in 2017, which contributed to the Giants’ decision to trade him to the Rays and to Tampa Bay’s decision to move him to left field. Span still didn’t rate as a strong defender in left, though metrics like Defensive Runs Saved (-1), Statcast’s Outs Above Average (-4) and Ultimate Zone Rating (-4.8) all pegged him as only a bit below average in 924 innings there.
With Span out of the picture in Seattle, Ben Gamel is the likeliest internal option to step up as the team’s primary left fielder, though ever-active general manager Jerry Dipoto will undoubtedly be open to making further outfield additions to pair with breakout star right fielder Mitch Haniger. The Mariners could yet elect to move Dee Gordon back to center field, though he’s a vastly better defensive option at second base, and the potential departure of Nelson Cruz could allow the M’s to rotate Robinson Cano and others through the DH spot, with Cano filling in at multiple positions around the infield.