The Detroit Tigers have a bit of history when acquiring standout players from the division-rival Minnesota Twins. From Delmon Young to Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan, the Tigers have brought in a number of ex-Twins. Is Denard Span about to join that list?
The outfielder, most recently with the Washington Nationals, is a free agent and able to sign with any team.
He’s certainly a fit in Motown.
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Right off the bat (look, a pun!) Span would be an extremely helpful addition to Detroit’s offense. The free agent is a career .287 hitter and averages 26 stolen bases and 57 RBI per season. He would likely hit atop the Tigers’ lineup, serving as a reliable source of speed. This could be an unexpected need if Rajai Davis leaves town. Should Davis depart, Anthony Gose would be the only impact base runner on the team. In this scenario, signing Span would certainly help. Additionally, if Span, Gose and Davis (should he re-sign) occupy spots on the Detroit roster next season, the Tigers will have a tantalizing and dangerous trio of base stealers that can strike fear into opposing pitchers.
The Royals have won a number of games based on the team’s speed, and speed off the bench. This is Detroit’s chance to counter that without losing the team’s identity as a slugging offense.
In terms of Span meshing with the team, offense isn’t likely a concern. Whether the outfielder is a defensive fit could seem like a more pressing concern.
It shouldn’t be.
May 20, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Denard Span (2) singles to drive in the go ahead run in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Span has primarily been a center fielder since 2010, but he did play 74 games in left field in 2009 and put up exceptional defensive numbers. His defense in center field wasn’t as strong in Washington last season, but perhaps a return to the American League Central could help. Span did show well for the Twins in center field back when he played for Minnesota.
But wait, doesn’t Anthony Gose play center field as well? Yes, he does. However like Span, Gose has some experience in left field. He’s logged 241.2 innings there and, in terms of defensive metrics, it’s by far his best position.
Span’s market value is also lower than it probably should be. If the outfielder played a full slate of games, he’d likely be in for a bigger payday, but the outfielder was limited to 61 games in 2015. Because of this, Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus and Gerardo Parra could all potentially receive more money than Span.
The outfield wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer from the Nationals either, meaning he won’t cost a draft pick to sign. This is extremely good news for the Tigers or any other team that wants to sign him.
In terms of Detroit’s situation in left field, there are a number of question marks. Signing Span to play there or moving Gose to left while Span plays center field would solve any questions.