A former Nationals leadoff man and fan favorite has reportedly come to terms with the possibility of his baseball career reaching its conclusion.
Centerfielder Denard Span played in Washington from 2013-15, hitting .292 with 62 stolen bases and 207 runs scored as the team’s primary hitter at the top of the lineup. Following stints with the San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners over the next three seasons, Span has spent the last year and a half as a free agent.
“I haven’t announced it, officially, but maybe this is it,” Span told the Minnesota Star Tribune in a story published Saturday. “I didn’t play last year…not because of an absence of contact from teams. The offers that came my way; they didn’t seem like fair value for my services.
“I spent this past offseason getting in shape, getting ready to play in 2020, and there were two or three minor league offers. I wasn’t opposed to starting in the minors, but these didn’t seem right as far as having a chance to move up to the big club if I was doing well in Triple-A.”
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Span, a former first-round pick, started his career with the Minnesota Twins in 2008. He played five years in Minneapolis before traded to the Nationals just after the 2012 season. Washington was in desperate need of both an everyday centerfielder and a leadoff man, and Span checked off both boxes.
As a sparkplug that ignited the Nationals’ offense, Span quickly earned the appreciation of fans in D.C. His best season came in 2014, when he led the NL with 184 hits and placed 19th in MVP voting. When the Nationals clinched a playoff berth last September, Span commented on the team’s Instagram page to say his time in D.C. was the “best 3 years of my career.”
A day after he signed a free-agent contract with the Giants over the 2015-16 offseason, the Nationals moved on by acquiring Ben Revere from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Drew Storen. Revere kick-started another round of musical chairs at the center field position in D.C. until Victor Robles took over the job full-time last season.
Span admitted to the Star Tribune that while he’d be open to returning to the majors, there likely won’t be a situation that will entice him enough to do so.
“I know that if the season ever would get started,” he said, “I still would have the ability to help a team. But 36-year-old outfielders who haven’t played in two years…not happening.
“I’m very satisfied pouring my life into our family, to [my wife] Anne, a wonderful person, and our two boys.”
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