Denard Span will reportedly workout for interested teams in early January, and the Mets were originally going to be one of those teams, Scott Boras – Span’s agent – told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post on Friday.
But the Mets signed Alejandro De Aza to a one-year contract before Christmas and is expected to be Juan Lagares’ platoon partner in center field. That seemed to put an end to any interest on the part of the Mets in Span, albeit without seeing the former National workout after undergoing hip surgery last summer.
And on Tuesday, Mike Puma of the New York Post confirmed the Mets were no longer planning on visiting with Span in Florida next month.
The Mets apparently have concerns about a long-term engagement with Span, presumably because of the health risks he comes with at age-32. That’s understandable, and Span’s willingness to workout for teams is an indication other interested parties are concerned about Span’s health as well, and are weary of meeting such demands. But it’s surprising the Mets wouldn’t at least watch Span in some baseball activities before jumping the gun on De Aza, who should have been a mid-to-late January signing anyway.
If he is healthy, however, 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, and could help account for the loss of Yoenis Cespedes.
Certainly, someone like Span doesn’t account for the power lost from Cespedes, but he provides a different kind of production with his speed, ability to create run scoring opportunities and ability to make contact, things the Mets have not done particularly well in recent seasons.
It’s something the Mets have strived to improve upon this winter, evident by their pursuit of Ben Zobrist before he went to the Cubs.
And that skill set can only help the swing-and-miss bats in David Wright and Lucas Dudasee more strikes and get more fastballs to hit. That along with growth from Michael Conforto, a full season of Travis d’Arnaud and utilizing Granderson’s bat in the middle of the lineup could all go a long way towards creating as much, if not more production out of that part of the lineup thanks to a greater ability to get on-base.
He’s also a natural centerfielder, whereas De Aza isn’t really a centerfielder at this stage of his career, and not a particularly good one when he does play there, according to the advanced metrics.
During the Winter Meetings, Boras said Span would be looking for a full-time role this winter and a multi-year deal at that. So sign-ability could be a factor with Span, especially with the outfield market slowly developing and multiple teams having needs in the outfield.
But again, it seems like the Mets have jumped the gun without letting Span’s market – which might be unique due to the injury concerns – play out naturally, especially when Span is the superior player to De Aza if he’s healthy.
Then again, with long-term dollars committed to Lagares and the Mets clear reluctance to procure players to more than a one or two-year agreement this winter, perhaps this was never a match for them to begin with.