Once upon a time, the Philadelphia Phillies had a very good center fielder. (I begin with "once upon a time," because it seems like it was forever ago.)
That man was Shane Victorino, who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline in return for Josh Lindblom, Ethan Martin and "a player to be named later," who would eventually turn out to be Stefan Jarrin, leaving the Phillies with a gaping hole in their outfield.
With the World Series in full swing, teams are chomping at the bit to get their hands on some of the winter's prime free agents, including B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn and even Victorino. But if the Phillies were smart, they'd turn their attention to the trade market.
One team that has a lot of work to do this offseason and could spare a center fielder on the trade market is the Minnesota Twins, and Denard Span fits the Phillies' needs in quite a few ways.
According to Phil Mackey of ESPN, the Twins are prepared to make nearly their entire roster available this winter: "Aside from Joe Mauer, who has a full no-trade clause, nobody is considered off-limits in potential trade discussions."
And there is a reason for that. The Twins need starting pitching in the worst way. The only starter currently penciled into their rotation for next season is former Rule 5 draft pick Scott Diamond.
Would they be willing to part with Span? One would certainly believe so. The left-handed center fielder is coming off one of the best seasons of his career in which he hit .283/.342/.395, stole 17 bases and played one of the best defensive center fields in the game.
But one of the biggest things that the Twins have working for them in any trade discussion involving Span is his team-friendly contract—a huge plus. He is signed through the 2014 season with an option for 2015 that, if picked up, would pay him $20.25 million.
Compared against some of the contracts that guys like Upton and Bourn will receive this winter, the Phillies wouldn't mind having Span on the payroll in the least bit—but what would it take to get him?
Pitching. That's the obvious answer. The Twins need starting pitching like a fish needs water, and when you look back over past rumors involving the Washington Nationals and their closer, Drew Storen, they are going to want a solid arm.
When it comes to pitching, the Phillies could go in one of two ways.
They have prospects to offer. Guys who would open the season in Triple-A for the Phillies would likely be the subject of many a discussion, including names like Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone and Trevor May—likely in that order.
But I don't see the Phillies being overly eager to move prospects when they could just as easily throw money at a free-agent center fielder. They'd save money on Span, but they'd save talent on a free agent.
Another conversation would be Vance Worley, and at that point, you have to wonder how much is too much for Denard Span.
Worley could be equally as valuable. He is the Phillies' most affordable starting pitcher penciled into the rotation for the 2013 season and isn't even eligible for arbitration until the conclusion of the 2014 season. He'll be a free agent following the 2018 campaign.
Would you pull the trigger on a straight-up trade of Vance Worley for Denard Span?
If the conversation becomes a swap of Worley and Span, you have to ask yourself this: What's more valuable? Would you rather have a young center fielder who could slide into the top of your batting order for three seasons or a starting pitcher with upside who won't become a free agent for six seasons?
I suppose the answer lies in how you feel about Worley. If you see him as a middle- to bottom-of-the-rotation starter, it's a no-brainer. If you still believe he has a little more upside than that, it's a different conversation.
Personally, and this is just speculation, if the conversation came down to being a swap of Span and Worley, and I were the Phillies general manager, I wouldn't even hesitate to pull the trigger.
Getting an affordable center fielder like Span would be a blessing for the Phillies, who would save money on a free-agent option and allow them to pursue other players in other areas, like a reliever and a third baseman.
Trading Worley would likely require the club to pursue a free-agent pitcher as well, but it would be a worthwhile venture (unless, of course, the team is willing to turn the reins over to a guy like Cloyd or Pettibone, and I don't think they will be).
There is also a third, albeit less likely, option in a trade for the Phillies, which is that the Twins will be unpredictable and move Span for lower-level prospects, which I can't see happening.
At the very least, the Phillies should be doing their due diligence about this. Span could be a bargain for them over the next three seasons, as opposed to free agents like Upton or Bourn, so the question is simple.
Would you pursue Span?