Report: Yankees tried to acquire Denard Span

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It’s no secret that the Yankees were looking to upgrade their centerfield situation last summer, after all they had agreed to a trade for Mike Cameron in July before Hal Steinbrenner refused to take on the extra payroll. They didn’t stop there apparently, because they also made several attempts to acquire Denard Span from the Twins according to Joel Sherman.  Without knowing for sure, I’d have to think the Span talks came after the Cameron deal was shot down since GM Brian Cashman probably went looking for a cheaper alternative.

Knowing how these things usually go, I’m guessing Minnesota was seeking either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain in the deal while the Yankees were pushing the Brett Gardners and Melky Cabreras and Ian Kennedys of the world. The money wouldn’t have been a problem for Hal considering that Span barely had more than a full year of service time and was making slightly more than the league minimum last summer. Of course, Span signed a long-term deal just last weekend, so there’s basically a zero chance of the two sides revisiting the talks.

The then-25-year-old Span was hitting .292-.381-.388 (.355 wOBA) with 16 steals at the All Star break last season, compared to the .283-.343-.424 (.338 wOBA) batting line and 23 steals the Yankees where getting out of Gardner and Cabrera to that point. Span’s defense in center was below average through the eyes of UZR,  so the Yanks’ duo had the advantage there. However, a 38-point difference in on-base percentage is a huge, especially if you consider that Span would have been hitting ninth for the Yanks, serving as that theoretical second leadoff man.

Combining offense and defense, the upgrade would have appeared to have been marginal at the time, especially if Melky and not Gardner was involved in the swap. Span did go on an absolute tear after the break, hitting .331-.402-.443 with a .366 wOBA in the second half to help Minnesota overtake the Tigers for the AL Central crown. Melky and Gardner combined for just .258-.322-.375 and a .325 wOBA after the break, but of course all of that falls into Michael Kay’s fallacy of the predetermined outcome. The Yankees would have been (even more) unstoppable if they had a nine-hole hitter performing like Span was in the second half.

The Yanks won the World Series, so there’s no sense in contemplating how much of a help Span would have been to the team last year had they managed to pull of the trade. The real question is how such a deal would have impacted the team this offseason. Would the Yankees still have pulled the trigger on the Curtis Granderson swap? Would they have still had the prospects to do so? Swapping out Gardner/Randy Winn for Span in the current outfield alignment would be tremendous, but what about swapping out Granderson for Span? It’s an interesting question we’ll never know the answer too.

Span’s a guy that’s been around for a while, he was the 20th overall pick was back in 2002, and there was a time he was spinning his wheels as a sub-.700 OPS player in the high minors. For whatever reason, maybe a tip from Joe Mauer or just maturing as a player, Span’s plate discipline and walk rate shot through the roof in 2008, and he’s been able to sustain that success in the big leagues. He’s six months younger than Brett Gardner, and clearly a better player. It certainly would have been an interesting move, that’s for sure.

Photo Credit: Mark Duncan, AP

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2010 Season Preview: Designated table-setter
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  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    After watching Denard Span put on a speed clinic in the Twins’ game against the Marlins yesterday, I’d just like to say, “Damn.”

    The thought of him in the Bronx is very appealing. Won’t happen any time soon now though.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    Yeah, this would have been a lovely addition, but the perpetually contending Twins wouldn’t have just given Span away. The only price points they would have been amenable to would be ones we wouldn’t give up (like the aforementioned Joba/Hughes/Montero), so this was kind of a non-starter.

    Woulda been nice, though. Imagine we traded for him and still swung the Granderson deal in the offseason? (Not likely, but, roll with me):

    Granderson-Span-Swishahouse? Daddy likes.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      He’d have to start wearing the high socks, though. It’s a new requirement.

      • Thomas

        Maybe his socks are high, but his pants are low?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          My mind: BLOWN

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Interesting to say the least. Without knowing what the actual cost was, I’m glad it didn’t happen, in that they won anyway, and likely wouldn’t have Granderson.

    Do you know if Span’s defense was regarded as plus and UZR just didn’t like him for the year, or does he profile for a corner spot in the future?

    • Thomas

      It looks like he profiles as a corner OF. His minor league CF RF/G was 2.02 and the lgRFG for a major league CF was 2.38 last year.

      Also, his UZR in LF/RF is really good, while his CF UZR sucks.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        Thanks, appreciate the info.

    • Jack

      http://www.minorleaguesplits.c.....?pl=452655

      His Minor League Total Zone has him right around average in center, with one massive outlier in 2007.

  • A.D.

    Gotta figure if Span was in the fold unlikely they make the Granderson trade, unless said trade included Span.

    Don’t see why the Twins would have traded him, unless they got blown away.

    • Mike HC

      I would guess the package would have had to be similar to the one we gave the Tigers. Span is probably not as good as Granderson, but cheaper.

  • Mike HC

    I love Denard Span’s game. He is quite smooth and fun to watch, plus he has the numbers to back it up. I think I prefer Granderson though if I had the option.

  • bexarama

    I would have liked this deal very much, definitely more so than a deal for Cameron, but as others/the article said, we probably wouldn’t have Granderson, then. And I love having Granderson.

    Though, yeesh. If you put Span’s second-half numbers in the 9-spot last year (126 sOPS+), the regular lineup last year would have had a 134 OPS+… eh, I think they were okay the way they were. ;)

  • A.D.

    Imagine how many more web gems the yanks would have!!

  • http://mlbnewsrumors.com/rumors.html Johnny

    I think Span is overrated. Last year was a career year for him. I’m glad the Yanks didn’t give up Joba or Hughes.

    • http://nytimes.com Gardimentary

      The guy just played his second season as a major leaguer.
      When was not good?

    • A.D.

      Last year was a career year for him.

      Sure, it was also his first full year in the majors.

      • whozat

        In fairness, it was also an outlier in terms of his minor league numbers. Putting up one’s best numbers in one’s first real big-league season is atypical.

  • KayGee

    I played against Span in a tournament down in Florida back in 2000 when he was in Tampa Catholic. The guy was an absolute beast and was pretty much the talk of the tournament. I would love to know what the offers were from both sides for this potential deal. He would have been a nice fit for the Yanks.

  • Chaz

    I know this is off topic and I apologize to upper management, but I was wondering if/when Mike was telling us who the player watch was gonna be?

    • KayGee

      See “Off-Topic” tab in the toolbar at the top of the page

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa
      • Chaz

        I see it now, nice touch and thanks.

  • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

    I’m happy it didn’t go through…

    Fallacy of the predetermined outcome.
    /Kay’d

    But seriously, we very well may not have acquired Granderson and/or Javy if this deal did clear. It’s sick how The Ninja does all this without anyone knowing.

    • bexarama

      also maybe if we trade for Span the Tigers win the Central and beat us in the ALDS. Boom! (?)

  • Joebrah

    The only image I have when I hear the name Denard Span is him misplaying that Gardner base hit last year, that lead to the inside-the-park’er.

    It’s stupid, but that’s all I can envision.

  • Clayton

    Neyer talked about Span’s improvement last week and Span believes it is from LASIK surgery.

    Neyer/Span

  • Barry

    Dude you’re so harsh on Gardner in your writing it’s almost intolerable.