Padres Editorial: Looking Forward- Denard Span

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Mandatory Credit: BleacherReport
Mandatory Credit: BleacherReport

With the likely departures of Justin Upton and Will Venable at the trade deadline, the San Diego Padres will find themselves with a few holes in the outfield. Depending on what happens with the Yonder Alonso/Wil Myers situation at first base, the Padres could be without three outfielders from this year’s roster by the end of the season. Keeping these potential losses in mind, it is never too early to look at the Padres options in free agency should they need to sign a new outfielder. One good option to consider is Denard Span.

Despite the Padres having quite a few good young outfield prospects in the minor leagues, from Hunter Renfroe to Travis Jankowski to Rymer Liriano, signing Denard Span would be a safe bet to sure up the outfield and provide some veteran leadership for the 2016 Padres. Despite Span turning 32 before the start of next season, he could still be a hot commodity on the free agency market, and a valuable one at that. Despite his age, he is still showing consistency, in this his 8th big league season.

Over his career, Span has been a very consistent player and has played in over 120 games in five of the last six seasons with a combined WAR value in those seasons of 19.4. This is an average of around 3.2 WAR a season which puts him as an above average outfield option for the Padres.

Span began his career with five seasons in the Twins organization before joining the Nationals prior to the 2013 season. In his two plus seasons with the Nationals, Span has been good for 8.8 WAR and is on pace for another 1.2/1.3 WAR the rest of this season which would maintain his average at around 3.2/3.3 WAR per season.

Span has been a relatively consistent hitter over the course of his career, only posting a wRC+ under 90 one time while maintaining scores over 100 in a majority of his seasons played (which is generally considered a decent number.) On top of that Span has generally also been a positive contributor on both defense and on the base paths which have definitely helped to increase his value. While Span isn’t a stellar defender, or a stellar baserunner, he provides above average defense in the outfield and can be consistently counted on for 15-30 stolen bases every season.

More than anything else, Span is known for his ability to get on base. In his time with the Nationals he has consistently had an OBP of over .300 with a .355 OBP in 2014 and a .367 OBP so far this season. For this reason alone, this is exactly the kind of guy that the Padres could use next season.

Mandatory Credit: AP Photo
Mandatory Credit: AP Photo

Denard Span is a guy who plays above average defense, can run well on the base paths, and provides a good on base percentage at the top of the lineup. That checks all the boxes of Padres needs in another outfielder.

Despite these promising numbers, Span does not come free of concern. It seems that his age may be finally catching up to him this season. He has played in just over half of the Nationals games and once again has found himself on the disabled list recently with a back issue after he missed the first thirteen games of the season following surgery on a right core muscle. He was placed on the fifteen day disabled list but could not be back with the team until some time in August depending on the severity of the injury and how it heals.

It seems the back injury stemmed from the lack of preparation that went with missing spring training this year, which is tied directly to his core injury during that time. This is still some cause for concern but given the nature of the injury the level of concern is lessened.

Denard Span has been a big part of the Nationals lineup for the last three years but it seems unlikely that they will be able to, or will want to, sign him long-term. They simply have too much money tied up in other areas of need and also have a cheap in house option to replace Span in Michael Taylor.

Imagine an outfield with Myers in left field, Span in center field, and Kemp in right field. The Padres should jump at signing Span to a two or three-year contract as a short-term solution to their outfield needs, at least until one or more of their young prospects prove they are ready for the big leagues. Until then Span could serve as a strong veteran presence to a team with a need for what he brings to the table.

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