Nats Replace Span with Revere – Or is it the Other Way Around?
Wait, didn’t the Nats already have Ben Revere?
Please excuse me, because for years I suspected that Ben Revere and Denard Span were the same person, and was especially flummoxed when the Twins somehow separated the siamese twins in deals to different clubs in the winter after the 2012 season. Of course, Minnesota sent both to NL East clubs — the Phillies and Nationals — to at least keep them close. It took me the entire 2013 season to figure out which player was on which team; it seemed like intra-divisional game the Mets played that year had a clone in center field.
Eventually, though, my tired old eyes figured things out. Span — the one on the Nationals — is a few inches taller, a big broader in the shoulders, sports a beard, and throws with his left hand rather than right. Otherwise, though, they’re frighteningly similar players. Fleet of foot, covering plenty of ground in center field, leadoff men hitting from the left side, providing mostly singles and stolen bases on offense. Heck, in 2014 the two tied for the NL lead in base hits with 184 — just when I thought I had understood which was which.
In all seriousness, and after closer examination, one might conclude that Ben Revere is the poor man’s version of Denard Span. OK, maybe not “poor man” but rather, middle class man. Span has a bit more power and takes more than double the amount of bases on balls. Though their OBPs have tended to be similar through the years, Revere’s OBP is strictly tied to his batting average. Overall, Span has been arguably the better of the two.
However, Span struggled throughout 2015 with injuries to his core, culminating in season-ending hip surgery, and is turning 32 at the end of February. In contrast, Revere has been relatively injury free during his career, save for a broken ankle suffered in 2013 (the result of fouling a ball off of it) — and turns only 28 in early May. So it would appear that Washington has replaced Span with a younger version of him — almost.
Considering Revere’s fear of walks and lack of pop, I don’t see him quite filling Span’s bigger shoes — certainly, I don’t expect him to come near the .771 OPS that Span posted in 2014. But he’ll be close enough to what the Nats need — an average to above-average centerfielder and leadoff hitter who can set the table and steal a few bases. And he doesn’t need to be as good as Span, anyway, because his role will be to be a backup for / take pressure from Michael Taylor in center while also occasionally spelling Jayson Werth in one of the corners.
Why should Mets fans care? Because Revere’s role with the Nats sounds an awful lot like what the Mets sought in a backup/platoon mate for Juan Lagares. Instead, the Mets have Alejandro De Aza. If Revere is the middle class man’s version of Span, then De Aza is the poor man’s version.
Maybe Lagares will return to the form that earned him a 4-year, $23M contract extension, and the point will be moot. But if Lagares continues to be injury prone, if his elbow finally blows out, and/or his offense continues to regress, all eyes with be on De Aza and the Mets decision to make him the backup plan.
Much like I didn’t understand the early signing of Michael Cuddyer last winter, I don’t get why the Mets were in such a rush to lock up De Aza and Asdrubal Cabrera — two players who seemingly could have been signed later if necessary. It was as though the Mets wanted to get two issues out of the way as soon as possible. Maybe it had something to do with Sandy Alderson’s illness, or maybe it was driven by a desire to create news and hype for season ticket sales (though the World Series appearance should’ve taken care of that). Cabrera I kind of understand (though not really, considering the lack of demand for shortstops and ample supply in free agency), but De Aza, no. Didn’t the Mets already have a better version of De Aza in Kirk Nieuwenhuis — a player they deemed expendable in early 2015? Why not wait to see Denard Span’s January workout, if they didn’t want to give up an asset for someone like Revere? Why not wait and see how the outfield market developed, rather than jump on De Aza? Wouldn’t he, or someone just like him (or better) still be around in late January?
What do you think? Are you happy with Alejandro De Aza as the fallback option to Lagares (and Michael Conforto, for that matter)? Would you have preferred Span, Revere, or someone else not named Yoenis Cespedes? Someone like Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler, or Austin Jackson? Or a player on the trade block such as Jay Bruce? Sound off in the comments.