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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