Three reasons the Nationals should trade Denard Span

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported yesterday that the Nats are listening to trade offers for Denard Span.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Nationals are going to trade him, or even that they want to trade him. This might be a smokescreen. After all, somebody leaked this story, and they did it for a reason.

But assuming the Nationals actually are interested in trading Span, here are three reasons why it would be a good idea.

1. He can be replaced.

The Nationals have a highly rated centerfield prospect, Brian Goodwin, who just completed a full season in AA where he played solid defense and got on base at a .355 clip. Goodwin is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League where he is getting great reviews. Goodwin’s star is on the rise. Last week, I ranked him as the Nationals 11th most valuable player, ahead of Denard Span.

Surely, Goodwin has zero at bats above AA and he will likely face an adjustment to major league pitching. But defense is defense. He won’t struggle in centerfield. Considering Span’s biggest contribution to the Nationals is defense, it’s safe to say Span can be replaced. This leads to my second point…

2. Denard Span can’t hit lefties.

Span was brutal last season when facing left-handed pitchers, hitting .223 with a .278 OBP. He only had five extra base hits. Span’s numbers were far better against right-handers, but these splits are unacceptable, particularly for a player expected to bat leadoff.

Span’s 2013 numbers against lefties are below his career averages. Span might return to the mean next season. Perhaps his struggles can be attributed making an adjustment to National league pitching. But the Nationals don’t have time to wait. Span’s splits make him qualified to be a platoon player, not an everyday centerfielder. The Nats need an everyday centerfielder.

3. Now is the time to trade him.

Span has one more year on his contract with a team option for 2015 at $9 million. Span’s numbers in 2013 make it less likely the Nats will exercise that 2015 option. The Nats have many escalating salaries on their team. In 2015, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond will be entering their final years of arbitration with lucrative contract extensions possible. Stephen Strasburg will enter his third year of arbitration. A $9 million salary may be too expensive for this team to swallow.

If this is indeed Span’s last year on the team, now is the time to trade him. Under the new free agent compensation rules, the Nationals wouldn’t get a draft pick if they simply let him go. It is better to trade a player too early than too late. The Nationals last season traded Michael Morse with one year left on his contract, netting a significant return including serviceable reliever Ian Krol and top prospect AJ Cole. If Span isn’t in the Nats long term plans, they should do it again. There are plenty of teams out there that need a centerfielder.

You know, teams that don’t have a Brian Goodwin waiting in the minors.

The Denard Span trade, in my opinion, wasn’t a failure, but it wasn’t a huge success either. Span played great defense, but he simply didn’t get on base enough. A player with no power like Span needs to get on base to be effective.

For fans like me tired of seeing him weakly ground out to second, a trade may not be a bad thing.

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