The Nationals And Denard Span: Source Wars

Patrick McDermott

Recent reports have said that the Washington Nationals are considering trading Denard Span and signing an outfielder like free agent Jacoby Ellsbury. There are conflicting reports tonight, however, about what the Nationals will actually end up doing this winter...

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman put the Washington Nationals on a list of teams that were interested in free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury in an October 31st article in which he wrote that though the Nats had 29-year-old outfielder Denard Span on the roster and under contract for 2014 with an option for another year in 2015, "sources suggest they may still consider Ellsbury."

"I'm glad that the fans and the fanbase get to see what kind of player he is and has been since the day he signed..." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. on Denard Span late this season

The 30-year-old, '05 Red Sox' 1st Round pick is coming off a .298/.355/.426, 31 double, eight triple, nine home run, 52 stolen base, +5.8 fWAR campaign with the World Series Champs in his seventh season in Boston, however, and he is reportedly looking for a long-term, big money deal in excess of $100M. But he is represented by D.C.-friendly super agent Scott Boras...

In a follow-up report this weekend, the CBSSports.com reporter wrote that, "officials on other teams," were telling him that the Nationals, "appear willing to listen to trade inquiries on center fielder Denard Span," with the Nats' willingness to entertain offers possibly, "...related to a potential corresponding move," for someone like Ellsbury.

"There was an adjustment to a new league and a new city and leaving the only franchise he's ever been in. But, this guy's character and approach to the game is second to none." - Mike Rizzo on Denard Span on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore's article from the GM Meetings in the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida tonight shot all kinds of holes in those reports though. The Red Sox made a qualifying offer to Ellsbury, who turned down the 1-year/$14.1M deal, so signing him would cost the Nationals their 1st Round pick, which is the 20th overall pick at the moment. The Nats gave up the 29th pick last year when they signed Rafael Soriano, but Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said he'd be reluctant to part with this year's pick.

"'I would never rule it out,'" Rizzo told the WaPost reporter. "'But I’d be more reluctant this year than last year.'"

The Washington Post reporter, though he doesn't cite a source, goes on to write that the rumors concerning Span and Ellsbury are unfounded:

"Despite a report to the contrary over the weekend, the Nationals are not considering trading Span. The Nationals have neither made nor received a call from another team about Span. They also do not have interest in would-be possible replacement Jacoby Ellsbury."

Over at MLB.com though, Nationals.com beat writer Bill Ladson is writing that he spoke to "a talent evaluator" who, "confirmed a report from CBSSports.com that the Nationals are listening to trade offers for the left-handed-hitting outfielder." The source he heard from also, "... said the Nationals have interest in Ellsbury." Rizzo is quoted in the article talking about Span's struggles early this season as one of several "offensive issues" for the Nationals, who got inconsistent offense throughout the 2013 campaign before coming on strong in August/September.

As Mr. Ladson notes, however, "Rizzo didn't say whether Span was on the trade block."

While acknowledging that Span took a while to get going, the Nationals' GM does say, as he has before, that once the Nats' center fielder got comfortable in a new home and new league this year, "he showed you what Denard Span can do offensively," and he never let his offensive struggles affect his defense. Span finished his first year in the nation's capital with a .279/.327/.380 line, 28 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs and 20 stolen bases in 153 games and 662 plate appearances over which he was worth +3.5 fWAR.

Will Span be back in center in Nationals Park in 2014? Or is the former Twins' outfielder about to become a former National?

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