Span's 2015 team option now looking like a bargain

Going into the 2014 season, some debated whether it might be Denard Span's final campaign with the Nationals.

Span had signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract back with the Twins in 2010, a deal that included a $9 million club option for 2015.

The Nationals acquired the speedy center fielder in the winter leading up to the 2013 season, giving them at least two years of Span's services in return for right-handed pitching prospect Alex Meyer. And while Span had finished the 2013 campaign on a positive note, hitting .302 with a .740 OPS after the All-Star break, some fans and media members weren't convinced that the Nats would end up picking up that 2015 team option, bringing Span back for a third year in D.C.

span-diving-for-ball-white-sidebar.jpgFast forward to today, and there shouldn't be much question at all that Span's 2015 option will be picked up and that he'll be the Nats' center fielder and leadoff hitter again next season.

Span put together a stellar 2014 season, hitting .302/.355/.416, with 31 stolen bases in 38 chances, reaching a personal goal by topping the 30-steal mark and shattering his previous career high of 26 stolen bases.

His 184 hits were tied with Ben Revere for the most in the National League. His 39 doubles were tied with Mike Trout for the most among big league center fielders. He had 58 multi-hit games, tops in the league. He scored 94 runs, tied for fifth-best in the NL.

And he did that all while putting up another tremendous defensive season in center, an effort that might just win him his first career Gold Glove.

Yes, Span struggled in the postseason, going just 2-for-19 in the National League Division Series, but let's not let those four games cause us to forget what Span did over the course of the regular season, specifically from June through September.

Now $9 million obviously isn't pennies, and it would represent a significant raise over the $6.5 million that Span made this season. But given the current state of the free agent market, as well as where the Nats stand as an organization when it comes to possible replacements in center field, picking up Span's club option for 2015 makes a lot of sense.

For perspective on the monetary part of picking up Span's option, consider the deals signed by Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan within the last couple of years.

Bourn, whose OPS-plus of 94 was 19 points lower than Span's this season, signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Indians prior to the 2013 season. Span has significantly outplayed Bourn over the last two seasons.

Pagan inked a four-year, $45 million deal with the Giants that also covers the 2013-2016 seasons. He's been nearly as productive as Span when healthy, but has played just 167 games over the last two years, compared to Span's 300.

In other words, Span is certainly worth more than $9 million over a single season in today's market, and would fetch a pretty nice multi-year deal if he were to hit free agency.

In addition, while the Nats have a couple potential future center fielders within their organization in Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin, neither are ready to play every day at the big league level. If the Nats want to, they could get through the 2015 season with Span as their everyday center fielder, and then assess where things stand with Taylor and Goodwin's development before deciding how next to proceed with the position.

After the Nats were eliminated in Game 4 of the NLDS, Span shook hands with a few reporters and said that he hoped he would be returning next season. There shouldn't be much doubt that the 30-year-old will be back, leading off and roaming center field at Nats Park for at least another year.

On pace of play during the postseason
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