Despite a history of Hall of Famers roaming centerfield for the Yankees, the position has been in flux since George Steinbrenner signed Kenny Loften after the 2003 season to help share the load with Bernie Williams. Last season the Yankees got by with Melky Cabrera, but the only reason they seemed comfortable with that was because they were so solid at every other position.
It turns out they weren’t as comfortable as they let on, before trading for Curtis Granderson this offseason, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Yankees tried to fill centerfield by trading for the Twins’ Denard Span at the trade deadline last season.
As I reported a while back, the Yankees actually had worked out a trade last July for Mike Cameron, then of Milwaukee, to play center instead of the Gardner/Melky Cabrera combo. But Hal Steinbrenner blocked the trade because he refused to expand the Yankee payroll any further.
Now I have learned the Yanks also made a series of attempts last July to obtain Minnesota’s Denard Span only to be rebuffed each time by the Twins, who recently showed how much they like the speedy outfielder by signing him to a five-year, $16.5 million contract.
Before that contract was signed, I thought it might be an interesting trade this spring for the Yanks to obtain Span for Phil Hughes. The Twins will probably need a closer with the likelihood that Joe Nathan is going to be lost for the season, and Hughes showed his value out of the pen last year. In 2011, if Nathan were healthy, Hughes could move back to the rotation. Remember that the Twins like Hughes, who was the key piece they were asking for a few years back in any deal for Johan Santana.
Span, at 26, would be the kind of young, athletic, cost-effective, multi-talented player that the Yankees have been craving to add over the past few years.
But, of course, this deal is not happening with Span signed long-term and the Yanks continuing to believe in a special future for Hughes.
Thoughts: Obviously Sherman is right in that the Twins seem to like Span and accordingly have locked him up for the next five years so this seems like it is impossible now. However, it is interesting to see that Cashman had his eye on span and from what it sounds like, he was able to make multiple trade offers in July and we are only hearing about it now.
Span is a former first round draft pick who has managed to put up a 117 OPS+ in two years as a Twins outfielder. Defensively he covers a decent amount of ground with a decent arm. He’s actually pretty comparable to Granderson with less power, but more patience at the plate. So it does make sense that failing to deal with the Twins Cashman targeted Granderson.
It shows how important Cashman felt the centerfield situation had become, with no real strong centerfield candidate and Johnny Damon leaving a hole in left field Cash made getting a speedy strong defensive centerfielder his priority.
Personally I think Span is one of the better outfielders that people don’t pay a lot of attention to and it would have been great to see him as a Yankee. If the cost was Phil Hughes though, I’d rather have traded Austin Jackson for Granderson so I’m happy the way things worked out.
It’s fun to hear about these non-trades and wonder how things might be different, an outfield with Span and Jackson or an outfield with Granderson with Hughes on the mound? What’s your take?