The San Francisco Giants continued their active offseason by agreeing to terms with outfielder Denard Span on Thursday to a three-year deal worth $31 million.
After signing marquee starting pitcher free agents Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to significant deals this offseason, the Giants only had one glaring hole left to fill before the start of the 2016 season. They had one spot in the outfield to fill, since they’re pretty set at every other position. Span fills that need and more.
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Some Giants fans wanted the team to sign a bigger-name outfielder such as Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, or Justin Upton. However, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Samardzija, Cueto, and Brandon Crawford‘s contract extension, the Giants decided to sign an outfielder that might not be as flashy as the aforementioned players but is still a solid player who will contribute to the 2016 Giants in many ways. Let’s get to know the newest member of the Giants.
Span, a center fielder, spent the first five seasons of his eight-year career with the Minnesota Twins, but he most recently played with the Washington Nationals. In his first two years with the team, Span hit .279 (2013) and .302 (2014). He also played in 153 games in 2013 and 147 games in 2014 and led the National League in triples in 2013 with 11.
Last season with the Nationals, he hit .301 with a .365 on-base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage, and he hit five home runs and collected 22 RBI in 61 games. Span missed significant time during the 2015 season with a few different injuries, but he passed his physical with the Giants on Thursday and looks like he’ll be fully healthy and strong in 2016.
Health is key for Span, because when he’s healthy, he will provide the Giants with some qualities that they needed and potentially lost when they didn’t re-sign Nori Aoki.
First of all, Span is an excellent defensive outfielder. Now that he’s 31, he might not be quite as defensively superior as he was in his earlier years, but he still is a two-to-three-win upgrade over the Giants’ current center fielder, Angel Pagan, and even when he was playing injured last season, he still was able to finish the year with a .993 fielding percentage and only made one error.
Another thing that Span will contribute to the Giants is his ability to get on base and steal bases. As mentioned before, his on-base percentage was .365 last season, and it was .355 in 2014. He also stole 31 bases in 147 games in 2014, which is astounding and would certainly lead the Giants.
Because of his ability to get one base and steal bases, he’d become the Giants’ best option to hit leadoff. Giants fans all know how important Pagan has been to the team the past few seasons and how he can truly spark the Giants’ offense with his energy. However, Span is a much more well-rounded leadoff hitter at this time, even with the injury troubles he had last year, and he could make the Giants’ offense more lethal, especially given Pagan’s struggles last year at the plate.
With Joe Panik, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Crawford, Matt Duffy, and Pagan (or Gregor Blanco) hitting behind Span, the Giants would have a versatile, quality starting lineup that is full of smart hitters that can get on base and some that can hit for power.
The Span signing might not be the flashiest of the offseason so far, but it’s a quality signing that could further solidify the Giants as another serious playoff contender in 2016.