FG on Fox: Giants Bet on Denard Span’s Talent

For the Giants, it’s easy to say this has been an offseason of risk. They’ve invested a fortune in Johnny Cueto, suggesting they aren’t too worried about his most recent second half. They’ve invested a slightly smaller fortune in Jeff Samardzija, suggesting they aren’t too worried about his most recent second half. And now, as of Thursday, they’ve invested a smaller fortune still in Denard Span, suggesting they aren’t too worried about his 2015 injury problems. It’s simple to see how this could conceivably blow up in the Giants’ faces. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Deeply flawed most recent seasons.

Of course, there’s upside to the Cueto deal. Of course, there’s upside to the Samardzija deal. And now, take Span. There’s no getting away from the fact that he spent much of last year hurt, eventually undergoing season-ending hip surgery. But Span wasn’t extended a qualifying offer, so the Giants aren’t losing a draft pick. And it’s a three-year commitment with a $31 million guarantee. There are incentives, and if Span hits them — if he hits all of them — then, over the next three years, he’ll earn as much money as J.A. Happ. There’s upside to the pitcher contracts, but the upside with Span seems plenty more reachable.

Leave aside for a moment the Giants didn’t have a real in-house center fielder. Leave aside for a moment the market isn’t flush with alternatives. There are a few places where I think teams are a little too cautious with their money. I think teams are still too cautious with talented Japanese and Korean players, placing the major leagues on too high a pedestal. And I think teams are too cautious with players who have injury questions. We’ve seen, for example, the Dodgers work to accumulate a bunch of affordable arms with injury backgrounds. That’s taking advantage of what they perceive to be a soft part of the market.

Span fits in a similar place, except he’s a position player, and not a pitcher, so he doesn’t have the usual pitcher concerns. Everybody wants talent and health. It’s expensive to get them both. The Giants are placing a bet on Span’s talent, figuring better health is going to follow.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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bjsguess
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bjsguess
4 months 18 days ago

The only thing I can think of is that the medicals must be worse than what we know. Given that so many teams could use an outfielder of his caliber, $11M AAV is just shocking. A team like the Angels should have been all over him.

jcutiger
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jcutiger
4 months 18 days ago

Or the Mets. But I guess they aren’t interested in giving 3-year deals right now.

Ebenezer
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Ebenezer
4 months 17 days ago

Not necessarily. Pitching free agents have been the priority this off-season, not outfielders. Alex Gordon signedf for $18M/year after averaging 5 WAR/year over the past five years. Cespedes and Upton remain unsgned. That doesn’t mean Span’s a lock, but the contract isn’t a shock given the focus on other outfielders.

ElJimador
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ElJimador
4 months 18 days ago

Really like this move as a Giants fan. I didn’t realize what an extreme contact hitter Span is and I loved the lineup last year when they had Aoki providing the same thing out of the leadoff spot. When they were healthy (Pence included) that was the best lineup in the NL. To get the same thing from a guy who can also play CF and represent a pretty big upgrade defensively there, at such a reasonable contract, seems to me like a virtually ideal fit.

Interesting note btw: the email from the Giants announcing the signing came with the subject line “Giants sign left-fielder Denard Span to a 3-year deal”. Not that I’m actually worried about, since if Span is healthy I’m sure he’ll wind up in center. But it shows you something about how sensitive the Giants believe Pagan is about being moved out of CF. Good thing they’ve got a HOF manager to handle that and ease him in his transition.

rjbiii
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rjbiii
4 months 18 days ago

I think they’re planning to have Span in left field when Posey catches add in center when he plays first, with Belt in left and Pagan on the bench. That way they can genuinely tell Pagan that he’s still the starting center fielder (just one who takes a few more days off) and everyone’s happy, except maybe Jarett Parker.

Slappytheclown
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Slappytheclown
4 months 18 days ago

Wait, they are concerned about a 35yr old CF’s feelings who hasn’t really contributed since 2012? No my friend, Span will be playing CF, Pagan/Williamson LF, Belt 1B, Posey C for 110 games. 50 games it will be Span, Belt LF, Posey and Susac. but really, Pagan will be to play as 4th OF you can’t really expect Span to play 150 games, 140 would be great and Pence will need some days. Honestly though, LF is there for the taking if Williamson can get it. Parker is just a 4-5th OF if he can handle that, a PH Power bat.

rjbiii
Member
rjbiii
4 months 18 days ago

Eventually I’m sure that’s how it’ll shake out. But they are clearly sensitive to Pagan wanted to stay in center as evidenced by the email referenced above and the recent (albeit pre-Span) statement from Bochy to the effect that Pagan is the starting CF. In the end, does it really matter who plays where ic they’re both out there?

ElJimador
Member
ElJimador
4 months 17 days ago

Barring injuries to multiple OF, I don’t see Belt playing a lot of LF. He’s not very good at it and I think the misadventures of Aoki in LF were a big reason he wasn’t re-signed either. Especially with the way Belt came on vs. LHP later last year, I see them keeping him at 1B primarily and spot starting in LF only a couple times per month maybe, and resting vs. the toughest lefties. Of course I could be wrong on that, I just don’t see him as a big part of the OF picture.

Aviato
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Aviato
4 months 17 days ago

Has everyone forgotten about Blanco already?

Dooduh
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Dooduh
4 months 16 days ago

It has nothing to do with Pagan and everything to do with not having a guy returning from hip surgery have to step into a premium defensive position. Fortunately the Giants do have other CF options.

And let’s not fool ourselves here, the injury risk is pretty high. The Giants were evidently the only team willing to offer more than a 1 year deal.

Slappytheclown
Member
Slappytheclown
4 months 18 days ago

Pagan is done/being pushed. Williamson can win the LF job if Pagan doesn’t do well. Belt will play LF when Posey hits 1b. Maybe he’s a nice guy Pagan but he was real bad last year and not healthy in 2013/14 so…

rjbiii
Member
rjbiii
4 months 18 days ago

In hindsight this looks like really the only move the giants could reasonably have made to improve their outfield. They had to go with a true center-fielder (I.e. Not Fowler) because they need to keep LF open if they want Belt’s bat in the lineup everyday (as I’m sure they do). Span also had the contact and walk rates that the team clearly values (that 1-2-3 of Span, Panik and Posey with their 7-9% K rates is going to prove very difficult to start against). My suspicion is that the health concerns are truly legitimate, but the fit, if it pays off, is so perfect the Giants were willing to push the boat out, , especially with Pagan and Blanco around to fill in if it goes wrong, In other words, I think the risk with the contract paying off may be higher than you write, but the risk to the giants is lower than everyone else and the potential reward greater.

Hurtlocker
Member
Hurtlocker
4 months 18 days ago

Good signing for the Giants I think, Span is better than Aoki. The Giants get an upgrade in CF, more speed and a true leadoff guy. If Pagan plays left and hits a little they are much better than last year.

Paul22
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Paul22
4 months 17 days ago

The fact that Span would sign such a low ball deal suggests the hip injury could be a chronic problem and he knows it, along with other teams. Taking a pillow contract and trying again would be way too risky in this case. Wishing him the best, but I am not too optimistic this will be a healthy 3 years

Statyllus
Member
Statyllus
4 months 17 days ago

Are the details of Span’s contract accurate? $5M in Yr1, $11M in Yrs 2&3; $12M Club Option 4th Yr. with $4 buyout. This for a Boras client that made $9M in 2015? True enough the guy was hurt but guaranteed dollars that equal AAV $7.75M over 4Yrs is not up to Boras standards. Perhaps it is since most teams were just offering a one year deal. This contract is a harbinger of doom for players like Dexter Fowler. Giants did a contract with a player recovering from hip surgery and took a pass on Fowler. With the draft choice issue linked to Fowler he’ll be lucky to get a 3 yrs at $10M

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member
4 months 15 days ago

My understanding from tweets reported by the Giants best writers is that he gets $3M in 2016, a $6M bonus, $9M in 2017-18, plus $1M incentives in 2016, $2M in 2017-18, which are easy to attain if healthy, part based on games, 90 and 100, and PA, from.400, then at 25 PA intervals up to 550, if I remember right. Then there is the mutual option for 2019, for $12M, with a buyout of $4M. With the incentives he would be making $12M AAV.

The reports have been that eleven teams offered one year deals, but it appears that the Gisnts were the only one to offer multiple years, which sealed the deal for Span, who wanted to be in one place for a while, though there was no no-trade clause, so they could trade him. But the Giants need a legit CF, as Pagan is too injury prone, and Blanco’s defense has been going down in CF. so they took a calculated risk, basically buying 1.5 WAR production, and even last season he was able to beat that on a seasonal rate.

Agree that this does not bode well for Fowler.

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