Nationals Rumors: Could Nats Deal Denard Span This Winter?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Does trading Denard Span make sense a year after the Washington Nationals acquired the center fielder to bridge the gap to their next generation of young outfielders? CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman's sources say the Nats are at least willing to listen...

Would the Washington Nationals consider dealing soon-to-turn 30-year-old center fielder Denard Span a year after trading their top pitching prospect, Alex Meyer, to the Minnesota Twins in return for what the Nats saw as the prototypical leadoff man they needed at the top of their lineup?

"You're talking about a true defensive ballhawk center field type of guy with great range. Sabermetrically and with a scout's eye, he's a front line defensive center fielder." - Mike Rizzo on Denard Span last November

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman thinks so. It's not the first time he's written as much either. Last month, the national baseball writer added the Nationals to a list of teams his sources said could have interest in Boston Red Sox' center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury this winter. Mr. Heyman wrote at the time that his sources said the Nationals, "have a solid center fielder and leadoff hitter in Denard Span but sources suggest they may still consider Ellsbury."

In a follow-up article this afternoon, CBSSports.com's Mr. Heyman is reporting that "officials on other teams" are telling him that, "the Nationals appear willing to listen to trade inquiries on center fielder Denard Span."

"The flexibility on Span could be related to a potential corresponding move," Mr. Heyman adds while noting the previous report of interest in Ellsbury.

When the Nationals acquired Span last winter they did so with the intention of having the outfielder, who has a year left (at $6.5M) on the 5-year/$16.5M extension he signed with the Twins and a club option ($9M) remaining, as a bridge to their next generation of center fielders like 23-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick Brian Goodwin or 22-year-old '09 6th Round pick Michael Taylor.

"We think we've got guys in the system that fill this role," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last winter. "But they're years away. They're in the pipeline and we're looking for big things from them down the road."

"We think we've got guys in the system that fill this role, but they're years away." - Mike Rizzo after acquiring Denard Span last winter

Does a long-term, big money deal for Ellsbury make sense for the Nationals? Would flipping Span a year after giving up their top pitching prospect to acquire him make sense? Span's first season in D.C. ended with the outfielder putting up a .279/.327/.380 line in 153 games and 662 plate appearances over which he was worth +3.5 fWAR. Span's struggles against left-handers, however, caused problems.

In 84 games and 172 PAs vs LHP, Span, who has a .281/.358/.374 career line vs lefties, put up .223/.278/.261 line vs southpaws in 2013. Were his struggles against LHPs part of the adjustment to a new league after Span spent his entire career in the American League before last season? Will the Nationals go another direction in the outfield this year? It can't be fun for a player whose name has come up in trade rumors repeatedly for the last several years to hear it come up once again:

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