Mariners Off-Season Primer: Denard Span

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 25: Denard Span #4 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 25, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 25: Denard Span #4 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 25, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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PHOENIX, AZ – AUGUST 25: Denard Span #4 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 25, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ – AUGUST 25: Denard Span #4 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 25, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Mariners are still in the midst of a playoff run. While it’s probably too early to be planning out the off-season, the team still has some decisions they’ll need to make soon.

One decision Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto will have to make is what to do with Denard Span. Acquired in May along with Alex Colome, Span has been nothing short of a home run pick up for Dipoto. In 68 games, Span is slashing .310/.354/.495 as a Mariner.

Amongst his 68 hits for Seattle, he has cranked 6 home runs, 5 triples, and 12 doubles. The power has been a massive surprise from Span, who entered the 2018 season with a career .396 slugging percentage.

In his short time with the Mariners, Span has accounted for 1.4 bWAR, making him a 3 win player over a full season. So what decision is there to make? There are actually a couple of factors in play here.

Factor 1: Span has a 1-year option for the 2019 season. The option is worth $12 million. So first, the Mariners must decide if Span is worth $12 million. If you get a repeat of 2018 Span over a full season, $12 million is a steal. The slash line of Span over 162 games, with his above-average base-running and average”ish” defense, Span is providing $20 million worth of value.

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However, there are several different factors at play. The first and most obvious is that Span has never been this good. He has always been able to get on base, but his slugging is 100 points higher than his career norm.

The second factor is 2019 will be Span’s age 35 seasons. He is past his athletic prime. Ideally, Span would get a lot of AB’s from the DH spot, while getting 20-30% of his PA while playing LF. However, if that is the plan, what does it mean for Nelson Cruz?

The basic decision comes down to this: what are the Mariners trying to be in 2019? If they are rebuilding (doubtful) then declining Span’s option and saving $8 million (he has a $4 million buyout), seems like a no-brainer.

But if they intend to compete in 2019, Span’s salary is reasonable. Activating the option gives you more leverage over Nelson Cruz and a pretty good trade chip for later in the winter or in the middle of 2019.

There is no easy answer with Denard Span’s option. Of course, the team should also consider how Span feels in Seattle. Does he actually want to be here? Or would he rather be closer to his home in Florida?

The Span decision could be an interesting statement from the Mariners in 2019. This one decision could drastically change the contract negotiations with Nelson Cruz, how much money the team can/will spend on starting pitching, and what they do with the young OF Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia.

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While a lot of the focus this off-season will focus around the Mariners getting a deal done with Nelson Cruz, fans shouldn’t ignore the Denard Span decision. It just might be the most difficult one they make.

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