After extending Brandon Crawford and signing Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants had already put together an impressive offseason. They addressed their biggest need by adding two valuable starters behind Madison Bumgarner, and with an already potent offense, their work seemed done. However, that's clearly not the case, as they've signed free-agent outfielder Denard Span to a three-year deal.
Span gets $10.33 million per season. A $31 million guarantee. Plus performance bonuses.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) January 7, 2016
Span only accumulated 275 plate appearances in 2015 due to injuries, but in that limited time, he proved to still be an above-average hitter. Over the last two seasons, he's been remarkably valuable from an offensive standpoint.
While he doesn't possess the power of someone like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, or even Dexter Fowler, AT&T is notorious for suppressing anyone's home run totals not named Barry Bonds. Unlike the players listed above, Span hardly strikes out, and makes significantly more contact.
The biggest knock against Span is undoubtedly his defensive contributions, as over the last two seasons he's produced negative values in many categories. By DRS, he cost the Nationals 10 runs in center last year, and posted a UZR of -4.9, which translated to a UZR/150 of -10.3. While it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could return to pre-2014 levels, it would be surprinsg to see an aging outfielder reverse these trends.
That being said, this seems like a reasonable signing for the Giants, to which ZiPS (Dan Szymborski's creation) agrees with.
ZiPS suggested 3/40 for Span (only knows general leg problem), so SF appears to be pricing in any possible additional risk.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 7, 2016
Span's a Perfectly Reasonable Signing. The Giants are competitive and it addresses a need.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 7, 2016
Signing Span also gives the Giants insurance in case Angel Pagan succumbs to injury once again, which has been the case since 2013. He's only played in 300 games over the last three seasons, and he failed to provide any significant value in 2015. If Pagan can't contribute any meaningful production, whether it be defensively or offensively, the Giants can slot Span into centerfield, with Gregor Blanco able to start everyday in left.
Another reason why the Giants might have preferred Span over the flashier outfielders available is the length of the commitment required. While there have been rumors that Upton could settle for a one-year deal, it seems much more likely that he, along with Fowler and Cespedes, will sign contracts in the range of four-to-six years, respectively.
If the Giants had decided to target one of those outfielders, that would have made it much more difficult financially to go after any of the significant players that will hit the market after the 2018 season, which is shaping up to be the most heralded class since free-agency began.
To name a few, Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and A.J. Pollock will all be free agents, and both David Price and Jason Heyward could be added to that list if they choose to opt out of their respective contracts. After the 2017 season, the Giants could find themselves in an enviable financial situation, as Cain's team option for $21 million (likely) won't be picked up, and Cueto has the ability to void his six-year deal, which would free up another $21 million in AAV. With Span's contract expiring after the 2018 season, San Francisco could have a considerable amount of financial power, which they've already shown a willingness to wield this offseason.
While the signing of Span doesn't dramatically increase their chances of continuing their uncanny stretch of winning the World Series every other year, it undoubtedly makes them a stronger offensive club. In Span, they've added a high contact-oriented player, with an ability to get on base and move himself into scoring position via the stolen base. As a team, the Giants ranked first in the National League in offensive fWAR in 2015, and Span should only increase their overall team value.
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Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer with Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Editor at MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.