The Minnesota Twins and Denard Span ensured that the two won’t need the arbitration process, as Span signed a five-year contract worth $16.5 million. The deal covers Span’s two remaining league-minimum seasons, three arbitration seasons, and also contains a $9 million club option for Span’s first free agent year.
Strictly looking at the numbers, this deal is quite reasonable. According to the 40/60/80 scheme of arbitration payouts, Span is receiving $15.7 million for 1.8 free agent seasons after removing the $800K for the first two seasons. That’s paying him as a 2.5 win player, which looks like a bit of a win for the Twins given Span’s 3.25 average WAR in his career so far.
For Span, there’s definitely some monetary value in both the security offered by this deal as well as the ability to avoid the grueling arbitration hearings. Still, I find it surprising that his agent couldn’t do better for him. Span has skills that could earn him money in arbitration, such as his ability to hit for average (.311 in 2009) and to steal bases (41 SBs in two seasons). He will be moving to CF this season, and could have increased his value with another good season at the premium position.
This deal makes sense on many levels for the Twins, aside from the apparent bargain they are receiving. The move to CF for Span could be risky, but if he makes the transition well, he could perform at an all-star level as soon as this year. At 26, Span is probably yet to hit his peak as well, and that could potentially squeeze some more value out of the deal for the Twins.
What particularly makes this deal great from a team perspective for me is the timing of the deal. Many economists say that we are starting to move out of the recession, and that suggests that the marginal value of a win will likely start climbing in 2012 if not before that. By the time 2014 rolls around, $6.5 million may only buy one win instead nearly two. Even more than that, the likely inflation of the win market could make the non-guaranteed 2015 team option look fantastic if Span is still a productive player at the time.
It will be interesting to see if teams share this idea of the market as we continue through the season. If they do, look for a bunch of five- or six-year deals on pre-arbitration players to be signed to take advantage of this lull in the win market.
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