When the Washington Nationals take the field for the 2014 season, center fielder Denard Span will be in the final year of his contract. In order to remain a member of the Nationals in 2015, he’ll need to convince GM Mike Rizzo he’s worthy of the team option.
In 2013, Span had the best season of any Nationals’ center fielder in recent memory. At the plate, he finished with a .279 average and an on-base percentage of .327, which isn’t all that bad, but teams usually want their leadoff hitters to do a little bit better than that. Span did have a league-best 29-game hitting streak over the last two months of the season. He also hit 28 doubles and 11 triples.
In the outfield, he was even better. He finished with a perfect fielding percentage with five assists and one double play on his way to his first career Gold Glove nomination. Span was brought in to fix the Nationals’ problem at center field, and he did just that. The thing that makes Span’s team option so intriguing is the fact that it’s $9 million for a one-year extension. That is quite a price tag to pay for a player that may come with some doubt as to whether or not he’s earned it.
If that decision had to be made this offseason, he would certainly get it. The Nationals will have to wait and see if his 2014 season backs up his play in 2013.
Span is going to have to earn his team option with the price tag being so high. If it were really anything less, there wouldn’t be much of a question as to whether or not he deserves the team option. Span will have to back up his 2013 fielding performance and will need to improve his play at the plate if he wants the Nationals to pick up the tab for 2015.