By: Jake Kucheck
In a move to shore up the OF, the Giants signed former Washington National and Minnesota Twin Denard Span for 3 years, $31 Million this afternoon. While this may keep the legend of Jarrett Parker from growing this year, what this deal does do is give the Giants an aggregate of 3 solid, proven outfielders (Blanco and Pagan counting for .5 OF each). However, there becomes somewhat of a logjam in the sense that three of them (Blanco, Pagan, Span) are best utilized as center fielders, and none of those same three are particularly good hitters, with Blanco being poor against southpaws, and Span even worse (.197/.279/.262). Left Field is typically a spot where you would want roughly a .271/.377/.432 slash line like Alex Gordon in 2015, as opposed to the .287/.352/.395 that Span is for his career. Sure, he could play center field instead (and he’d be better at it than both Pagan and Blanco), but then you would have an even worse hitter in left field (Blanco is .262/.347/.354 for his career, and Pagan is, well, not as good as he used to be). To make matters worse, the arch-rival Dodgers project to have a rotation consisting of four southpaws (Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu or Alex wood, depending on Ryu’s health), making for some predictably easy outs amongst the Giant outfield bats.
So is this a “good” signing? Throughout his career, Span has profiled as more or less a 3 WAR player… not good enough to dominate in his own right, but a solid piece that can contribute in meaningful ways to an otherwise good team (or in his years with the Twins, a bad one). He’s also had some injury history, most recently being limited to only 275 plate appearances in 61 games in 2015. What will be most interesting to see is how well his above average defense translates to the cavernous AT&T park, and if his speed can give the Giants something they have not had in recent memory, a true base stealing threat atop the lineup.
While this isn’t the type of move that a Justin Upton or Alex Gordon signing would be, it is precisely the kind of move that has paid off for the Giants in the past. Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy have been able to pull off some very impressive feats every other year for a while now, so Giants fans can calmly defer to their expertise with this signing.