• The Case For Trading Span

    We're approaching the time when a long-time Twins player is going to be traded away. It will likely be Denard Span.Is Span's time with the Twins almost over?

    In our interview for the 2013 Offseason Handbook, Terry Ryan was careful, but stated the obvious. When talking about Chris Parmelee being a regular, Ryan admitted "We're going to try and fit [Chris Parmelee] in there somewhere, without tipping my hand too far."

    Fitting Parmelee into the lineup as a regular means playing him at first base or in right field. That means moving one of four regulars: Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Ben Revere or Span. It's likely none are off the table, but Span is the most likely to be moved, not for any one reason, but for lots of little reasons, some of which are contradictory.

    He's valuable.
    Center fielders that can get on base, have a little power, occasionally steal and play above average center field don't grow on trees. There is a reason that Span's name has been bandied about by the Nationals and Red at the trade deadline the last two years: he's a commodity. In fact, for those attached to the more advanced sabrmetric stats, WAR (Wins Above Replacement) pegged Span as the most valuable Minnesota Twin last year - above Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham.

    He's replaceable.
    The Twins find themselves desperately short of pitching and middle infielders from the majors down through the minors. But this organization can sure develop center fielders. Twins fans know that Revere could step into center field for Span right now and probably improve the defense. And one-level below him is toolsy first round pick Aaron Hicks, who is going to be better defensively than either of them, and probably better offensively, too. And Twins fans have also already been introduced to Joe Benson, who can also hold down the position.

    He's becoming expensive.
    Span will make over $10M over the next two years of his contract. The Twins have limited funds after two straight years of declining attendance. That is $10M that could (and probably should) be used on pitching.

    He's not that expensive.
    There are going to be several free agent center fielders available this year - BJ Upton, Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Shane Victorino - but they're all going to cost a pretty penny. A 2 year/$10M commitment to Span is going to look like a bargain comparatively.

    There will be openings.
    While the free agents above will be snapped up by the highest bidder, their former teams are going to be looking for replacements. The Rays are going to lose Upton and don't have a great replacement for him; they also have been heavily rumored to be shopping some of their better pitchers, like James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson.

    Similarly, the Braves will likely lose Michael Bourn and they also have few centerfielders in their farm system. In our 2013 Offseason Handbook, there’s a whole essay on why it makes sense to trade with the Brave by Ben Chase. In it, he lays out the assets the Braves would consider trading, in order:

    "The Braves would probably trade their eight starters in the following order (most likely to least likely): Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Paul Maholm, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, and Kris Medlen. They've also got Brandon Beachy coming back midseason from Tommy John surgery and Sean Gilmartin knocking on the door in AAA."

    Chase admits the last half of that list is off the table for Span, but several of the first couple names are in play, and each would provide an affordable upgrade to the Twins rotation.

    Usually, when fans suggest a player should be traded, it's because they don't like him. Span, on the other hand, is well-regarded and maybe even undervalued. But a combination of traits - value, affordability, replacability and opportunity - make him the most likely player to be traded. And with the MLB General Manage meetings happening this weekend, it could happen sooner rather than later.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Case For Trading Span started by John Bonnes
    Comments 26 Comments
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      I realize this isn't quite the same, but it relates. If you are trying to value OF vs P, look at the FA contracts signed by players at those positions the past 5-10 years. Without actually digging in and looking, my guess is many more pitchers have signed $50M contracts than OF. Doesn't that indicate that teams value SP over OF? That is why we can't get Shields for Span alone. Having Bourn and Upton on the FA market doesn't help Span's value, although he should be a cheaper option.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Chris in Osaka View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by mk View Post
      Aquiring good starting pitching for 2013 and the future is priority #1, but I'm scared that Span's likely successor in CF and the lead-off spot has a career .319 OBP. I think that is the biggest case against trading Span.
      There is an easy fix to this. Due to Revere's extreme contact proficiency,it is more beneficial for him to simply stop swinging when he gets ahead in the count, and avoid terminating his at-bat prematurely by putting a ball in play. Specifically if he avoided swinging on all 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1 counts, I believe he could raise his OBP .040 or .050 points or more overnight. I made some rough calculations to arrive at that conclusion here:
      How many such counts did he have? Since he has no power, I can't believe he was able to build too many such hitter-friendly counts.
      233 counts total in 1064 PAs. Would have been more if he hadn't swung 79 times (and put most of those balls into play). I will have to go through all the math again, but there are a lot of walks he's leaving on the table.

      He does rake on 2-0 and 3-1 in terms of batting avg but I am convinced that after you account for the probabilities of strike and ball sequences, that Revere is actually having a slight negative effect on his OBP. And then you can further account for the hits he is not sacrificing due to him being still a very effective hitter in 2-1 and 3-2 (though less in 2-2). Again, I will go through the math which factors in his plate discipline and the percentage of non-swinging strikes he is actually seeing, and how these iterations would play out, and probably make another blog post to clarify this hypothesis.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Chris in Osaka View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by mk View Post
      Aquiring good starting pitching for 2013 and the future is priority #1, but I'm scared that Span's likely successor in CF and the lead-off spot has a career .319 OBP. I think that is the biggest case against trading Span.
      There is an easy fix to this. Due to Revere's extreme contact proficiency,it is more beneficial for him to simply stop swinging when he gets ahead in the count, and avoid terminating his at-bat prematurely by putting a ball in play. Specifically if he avoided swinging on all 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1 counts, I believe he could raise his OBP .040 or .050 points or more overnight. I made some rough calculations to arrive at that conclusion here:
      How many such counts did he have? Since he has no power, I can't believe he was able to build too many such hitter-friendly counts.
      233 counts total in 1064 PAs.
      Impressive.

      Just off the top of your head, how many 1-2 counts did Joe Mauer have in innings 3 and 4 in the months of May through July?
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      OK, so I may have been wrong. A quick look (I may have missed a couple) on Cot's shows 11 OF and 9 SP signing $50M+ free agent contracts. There were however more SP signed to $50M extensions (8-4) - meaning they signed with current team before reaching FA. There just seems to be more team looking for SP than OF.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      I don't think there are many comps of trading an outfielder for a starting pitcher unless the outfielder is relatively better at his position or a starting pitching prospect is included.

      Lots of teams lost a starting pitcher to free agency and are in the market for a pitcher. I fear they will have the prospects and depth to top the Twins offer of Span.
      I don't think Tampa is looking for a prospect led package. They are ready to compete now and they need offense. Imo the Twins match up better than any team aside from possibly Texas (Andrus).
    1. bdhenders's Avatar
      bdhenders -
      Quote Originally Posted by Physics Guy View Post
      OK, so I may have been wrong. A quick look (I may have missed a couple) on Cot's shows 11 OF and 9 SP signing $50M+ free agent contracts. There were however more SP signed to $50M extensions (8-4) - meaning they signed with current team before reaching FA. There just seems to be more team looking for SP than OF.
      Keep in mind that teams need 5 SP, as opposed to only 3 OF. With more pitchers needed on a team, there are a lot more pitchers contracts given out and you are more likely to get a greater than $50M contract just by the sheer volume of contracts. I do, however, agree with your point that SP seems to have a higher value on average. Just look at some of Terry Ryan/Tom Kelly's comments. TK liked to say "You're only as good as your next day's starting pitcher." In Terry Ryan's interview in the offseason handbook, he said "you can't have enough pitching, ***** ******" Those superlatives I replaced with ***s were added by Terry for emphasis. So he's not shy about that point. I guess that emphatically states that pitching is highly regarded by our GM. That's why it's so frustrating that they didn't have any pitching this year. However, they do have the excuse of counting on some people that were either injured or didn't perform. This year, I hope they have learned from their mistakes.

      I agree with someone earlier that said that if we trade Span we are giving away an above average OF, so we should get an above average pitcher in return. I hope the Twins stand firm with that. That is probably why we haven't seen a trade, yet. People are probably trying to get him for a 4th or 5th starter. I think it would be a shame if we don't at least get a 3rd or better. ML avg. ERA for starting pitchers was around 4 last year, so I would like to see a lower than 4 FIP for whomever we get.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.