For years, the Washington Nationals were searching for a center fielder that plays good defense and can also hit leadoff. Washington had, Nyjer Morgan for a few years, but his terrible attitude when he made a mistake combined with his complete lack of sanity forced the team to cut ties with him.
When the Nationals finally acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for prospect Alex Meyer, fans rejoiced as the team finally had that leadoff hitting center fielder they had been reading about for years. He also came at a bargain, thanks to an incredibly team-friendly deal he signed with the Twins. With prospect Brian Goodwin waiting in the pipelines, Washington would be able to transition smoothly from Span to Goodwin, and neither would be too expensive.
As we saw, Span struggled mightily for most of the 2013 season, as did he rest of the team. But as the team heated up, so did Span. He ended up finishing with very Span-like numbers, and was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the Nationals. One thing that never wavered with him was his defense, as he covered a lot of ground in center field and dazzled fans all year.
Going into 2014, it would be safe to say Span was able to adjust to the NL, and probably will not start nearly as slowly as he did in 2013. So why would the team trade him?
Reports surfaced a few weeks ago stating that Washington would “at least listen” on Span in the effort of possibly pursuing Jacoby Ellsbury to replace him. The Nationals must be messing with writers, because there is absolutely no intelligent logic behind doing this. First off, Ellsbury is going to demand a contract along the lines of Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, who signed for $126 million and $142 million respectively.
Ellsbury is represented by super agent Scott Boras, who has a good relationship with the Nationals, but he most certainly will not come down on whatever astronomical price he has in mind for his client.
Aside from his astronomical price tag, Ellsbury is pretty much made of glass. He has averaged 80 games played in his seven-year career, and any team that signs him is gambling on the fact that Ellsbury stays healthy and that they also do not suffer from a recent string of lost first years that players who sign large free agent contracts have had.
This fear is only exacerbated by Ellsbury’s lack of durability, especially in an age of baseball where teams want to get as much bang for their buck as they can.
Trading Span away would be one of the dumbest moves Washington can make this winter, and GM Mike Rizzo is not the kind of GM to make that bad of a move. His moves have been pragmatic and he pays for what he believes his team needs, and what the Nationals do not need is a center fielder who is not durable and may be better served playing a corner outfield spot.