Orioles could be interested in Denard Span as a right fielder

Denard Span slice


BaronThe Mets have reported expressed interest in signing Denard Span to pair with Juan Lagares in centerfield as a left-handed platoon partner.

Span is a catalyst for the top of the lineup. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but he makes contact, has first-to-third speed, and when he’s healthy, can be counted on for 200-plus total bases thanks to his ability to take advantage of big ballparks with his triples speed.

Acquiring Span would go a long way towards improving the team’s on-base percentage, and it would allow Curtis Granderson to be moved towards the middle of the lineup as well where his power could be much more valuable.

Certainly, someone like Span doesn’t account for the power lost from Yoenis Cespedes, but he provides a different kind of production with his speed, ability to create run scoring opportunities and ability to make contact. That can only help the swing-and-miss bats in David Wright and Lucas Duda see more strikes and get more fastballs to hit, and along with growth from Michael Conforto a full season of Travis d’Arnaud and utilizing Granderson’s bat in the middle of the lineup, that could also help account for the loss of Cespedes.

But Span missed a lot of time in 2015 due to a bad back. And his absence cost the Nationals dearly too – they were 36-25 when he played, 47-54 when he did not play.

He underwent season-ending hip surgery in late August, but that could mean Span might sign an under-market deal, and try to rebuild some of his value for another run through free agency.

But in a small sample size, Span mashed right-handed pitching in 2015 – he hit .335/.393/.486 with 90 total bases in 56 games. He was mostly ineffective against left-handed pitching, however, posting a .197/.279/.262 line with 16 total bases against southpaws. But neither are in-line with his career marks, as he’s historically been an effective hitter against left-handers, posting a .274/.351/.365 line and a more modest but still impressive .293/.353/.407 mark against right-handers.

He’s a little older now, and his back and hip issues could create some red flags for teams like the Mets who need his type of presence at the top of the lineup. His defense has also regressed in the last two years, and it’s unclear if that will improve as he enters his age-32 season in 2016, especially after hip labrum surgery. And there’s a legitimate question as to whether or not Span will be ready for spring training and Opening Day, and how much this hip injury might ultimately diminish the 32-year-old’s primary skill sets.

But if he’s healthy, Span is a proven commodity for the top of any lineup, and his historical marks against both right-handers and left-handers could prove to be a tremendous insurance policy for Juan Lagares who, in fairness, the jury is still out on.

But the Mets may have company in a potential pursuit of Span this winter, as Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports says the Orioles could be interested in signing Span to play right field.

That could be appealing for Span, as his hip could conceivably hinder his ability to play centerfield, but it could also show potential suitors in a future contract he is versatile and could play multiple positions.

But it also remains to be seen if Span would consider a position change, something he may or may not have to consider anyway. Obviously, if he wants to continue to play center field, Baltimore would not be a fit for him, as they already have Adam Jones as their staple at the position.

One team which is not interested in signing Span is his former club, the Nationals, as GM Mike Rizzo said at the GM Meetings they would not be bringing their former leadoff hitter back in 2016.

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