The Giants completed their huge offseason Thursday, announcing a three-year deal with center fielder Denard Span, pending a physical. The deal is worth $31 million and includes performance bonuses.
The former Washington National gives the Giants the third starting outfielder they have sought since addressing their rotation issues late last year. The Giants had previously given Jeff Samardzija a five-year, $90 million deal and signed Johnny Cueto to a contract that could pay him $130 million over six years.
After signing Cueto in mid-December, the Giants signaled a desire to be patient and wait for the outfield market to play out. A day after Alex Gordon — a one-time target — returned to Kansas City, the Giants finally got their man.
Span, 31, hit .301 last season with a .365 on-base percentage, 17 doubles, five homers and 11 steals in as many attempt — but he played just 61 games. Core muscle surgery put him on the DL to start the season and he had a left hip labrum tear repaired the first week of September, ending his final season in Washington D.C. Span told reporters that the hip procedure would require a four-to-six month recovery, and earlier this week he tweeted out a video of himself hopping over hurdles, with the caption: “I’m jus sayin.”
Span’s run before 2015 was an impressive one. A speedy left-handed hitter, the Tampa native posted a .279/.327/.380 slash line in 2013 — his first season with the Nationals — and led the league with 11 triples. Span had a league-leading 184 hits in 2014, batting .302 with a .355 OBP, five homers, eight triples, 39 doubles and 31 stolen bases.
For his career, Span — a first-round pick of the Twins in 2002 — is a .287 hitter with a .352 on-base percentage and 152 steals in 193 tries. It’s a profile that makes him an ideal leadoff hitter for a Giants team that let Nori Aoki depart early in the offseason.
The bigger question regards the outfield alignment. Span has been almost exclusively a center fielder in his big league career, and while his numbers took a dip last season, advanced metrics put him in the middle of the pack among NL center fielders during his time with the Nationals. Span’s metrics in center are similar to Gregor Blanco’s, and he would be an upgrade over incumbent Angel Pagan, who ranked last among MLB center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved in 2015.
The Giants have been hesitant to even discuss moving Pagan to left field, and it will be a tricky proposition with Pagan, who takes great pride in playing up the middle, entering a contract year. The Giants, however, have been looking for a longer-term solution in center, and it would make little sense to put off an outfield shuffle now that Span is part of the organization.
The Span deal means the Giants have committed $326 million this offseason. Their three free agent additions are guaranteed the vast majority of that (although Cueto can opt out after two years), and shortstop Brandon Crawford kicked off the winter by signing a $75 million extension.
Alex Pavlovic is CSNBayArea.com's Giants Insider. Follow him on Twitter @AlexPavlovic.