Nats Replace Span with Revere – Or is it the Other Way Around?

The Washington Nationals sent reliever Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for Ben Revere.

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Since68 January 10, 2016 at 3:32 pm
    Fans seem to have a short memory with Kirk. He failed multiple times when given regular playing time. He would have been a perfect fifth outfielder if there was room.

    Span wanted too many years.
    Fowler didn’t want to platoon.
    Stubbs and Jackson both bat right.
    Toronto wasn’t trading Revere to the Mets.

    I don’t like De Aza, but there were not many other options. If Lagares or De Aza don’t work out, we have the trade deadline. Or Nimmo if we’re lucky and he performs in AAA

    • Joe Janish January 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm
      Span was purportedly the Mets’ first choice. Why would three years be too many for the Mets but not for the Giants?

      Who says Fowler would have had to platoon?

      Who cares whether Jackson and Stubbs bat RH? Conforto and Grandy both bat from the left side so they’re a bit LH heavy in the OF as it is. I don’t see De Aza in a strict platoon with Lagares, assuming the Mets still want to believe in Lagares.

      Why wouldn’t Toronto trade Revere to the Mets?

      There were plenty of options at the time De Aza was signed. There still are more than a handful of options here in mid-January.

      Fair point on the trade deadline, but my main question is why the rush to sign someone may very well have had to settle for a minor league contract with invite to ST elsewhere? The more I think about it the more it smells like a financial decision.

      In addition to the rush to sign Cuddyer, the year before the Mets rushed to sign (and overpay) Chris Young. It’s a strange pattern.

  2. remember1969 January 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm
    Hey Joe . . I was following this site a lot last year, but for some reason I had not gotten back to it of late. Glad I came back to it yesterday as I always enjoyed your writing and well thought out articles.

    Another interesting one here. I understand Sandy’s outfield predicament at this point and his ‘square peg in a round hole (or round peg in a square hole?) comment. My thoughts are (1) Yeonis Cespedes is not the right guy – the need is in centerfield and Cespedes is not a centerfielder. (2) I was kind of hoping that Span would be available on a one year with option type of a contract – obviously that didn’t happen. (3) I have been a Juan Lagares fan for a while, and I really would like to see him be the main centerfielder – with his 2014 form, not his 2015 form. And with his contract, I suspect the Mets want the same thing.

    With all this all in mind, I think de Aza is not a terrible choice as he is not automatically the starting centerfielder – I am thinking/hoping he is really more of a fourth outfielder rather than the long half of a platoon. Span would have forced Lagares into much less playing time. As far as the other options, I never thought of Revere, I have never liked Stubbs (too many strikeouts, terrible OBP guy), Fowler would cost a draft pick and way too much money (and Lagares a lot of at-bats). I used to like Jackson a bit, but i’m not sure why – they don’t need another version of Lagares (righty centerfielder) that strikes out way too much for limited power. Jay Bruce is a guy that I always liked to draft on my fantasy team, but I’m not sure he is what the Mets need now. They already have enough starting left-handed hitting outfielders. It did seem strange that they signed de Aza as quickly as they did and it seems like a bit of an overpay, but I am OK with it. I followed him several years ago with the White Sox and thought he was going to blossom into something better than he turned out to be. Used correctly, I think they can maximize their production of the centerfield position. Now, all they need is a right-handed hitting corner outfielder/first baseman bench guy .. hmm Michael Cuddyer? The real hole is the lack of a true big bat threat that Cespedes filled so well in August and September, but I don’t think that is possible to fill with the current roster constraints and available options. Maybe the combination of Duda/Conforto/dArnaud can provide that big bat in the middle.

    The bullpen is the next discussion, but I’ll save that for another post.

    • Joe Janish January 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm
      Thanks for returning and joining the conversation!

      You raise good points, and I have a few rebuttals.

      Bruce, I’d think, is exactly what the Mets need right now — a legit homerun bat who can play all three OF positions with aplomb, and can be had for pennies on the dollar. Yes, his batting average has plummeted, but he still walked 58 times, put 26 balls over the fence last year, and rediscovered his running game with a healthy knee. The Reds are looking to unload him to anyone who will take on his contract, and will eat some of his salary if they get a decent prospect in return. As a fourth outfielder who can spell Lagares in CF and be a backup plan in case Conforto busts, he’d be a good fit — he’s essentially already the guy everyone kept waiting Nieuwenhuis to be.

      You’re right, though, an ever better fit would be a RH-hitting corner OF / corner INF type. So, then, again — why De Aza?

      • remember1969 January 10, 2016 at 9:44 pm
        I’m not sure whether your comments on Bruce are still applicable (in addition to de Aza) or whether he would have been the better choice in December (a bit less argument from here). However, my view is that something tells me that Jay Bruce would be the second coming of Jason Bay, although in Bay’s defense, he actually had a good year prior to joining the Mets. There must be a reason for being able to get him for pennies on the dollar – I guess he has not been 100% healthy, but it scares me that his 58 walks got him to a .294 OBP. While he is still relatively young and his contract is team friendly for a guy with that much raw power, I’m not sure I’d spend much to bank on his getting back to his 2010 to 2013 years. My preferred game is OBP and some speed – cut down on the team strikeouts – kinda the Kansas City model – Jay Bruce does not fit that. (neither does de Aza 🙂 ). Also, Bruce is pretty much exclusively a right fielder – he has played 35 games in center in his career – none since 2008, and only 11 in left. Lastly, I cannot see where Bruce would be a fourth outfielder at this point – if they obtained him for his power potential, he wouldn’t be spending even 2 days a week on the bench. IMO, the only way that Bruce makes sense is if Granderson would go down with a full-season injury in spring training.
        • Joe Janish January 12, 2016 at 1:01 am
          De Aza scares me more than Bruce.

          I agree with you on the strategy of OBP + speed, but that’s not what the Mets front office has gone after in its tenure. Sandy and co. go after homerun bats first, OBP second, and everything else third, so when considering options you need to think like them, not like yourself. Think Baltimore Orioles circa 1970s (starting pitching and the 3-run homer), not the present-day Royals.

          Understood on your point that Bruce is/has been a corner outfielder, but I’m sure he can handle CF as well as De Aza, who is as much a corner guy as Bruce. Considering his age and past history, I’d much rather take my chances with Bruce’s deficiencies in the field and hope for a rebound with the bat than overpay for De Aza, who “is what he is” at this stage of his career.

          Oh, and I completely forgot about Gerardo Parra, who is a better fit than both Bruce and De Aza and remains available.

        • argonbunnies January 12, 2016 at 6:29 am
          Yeah, my top choices were Span and then Parra.

          Not sure what I think of the Bruce idea, but if he cost as little as Joe estimates, then yeah, I’d take him over De Aza.

          My first thought on De Aza replacing Nieuwenhuis was this:
          Kirk has some upside left, but De Aza has a much higher floor (he’ll at least hit righties okay), and some safety isn’t a terrible idea for a contending team.

          But my second thought is this:
          In CF, Kirk actually probably has a higher floor overall, due to his defense.

          Regardless of De Aza vs Kirk, I agree with Dave Schneck that this $6M purchase is not the best use of the Mets budget. Could have gone toward Soria, for example.

        • argonbunnies January 13, 2016 at 2:03 am
          Hmm, well, the Rockies just gave Parra $27M for 3 years and his defense appears to be declining so maybe not…
  3. DaveSchneck January 12, 2016 at 12:05 am
    Good article. Yes, rushing for de Aza was a bit of a head scratcher, but we do need to see where Upton and Cespedes land before final judgment. I know Kirk had opportunities and could not cut down those Ks, and I know Cespedes is a square peg in a round hole, but i would have been more inclined to spend on an 8th inning arm, go with Kirk/Ceciliani as Lagares insurane, and wait out those bog RH OF bats to see if fall into your lap. I think the Heyward deal spoked Alderson and he considered de Aza a bargain at $6 million. Yes, one more big RH bat would be just wonderful, even if it unlikely. Cespedes on a 1 year is not impossible (assuming the MEts would anti-up), as it could be a win win. It would surely cost Conforto and Lagares ABs, and make de Aza a very expensive 5th OF, but Cespedes would get a full year on the big stage to prove 2015 wasn’t the outlier, in a ballpark and city that he flourished (mostly). He would get back into the FA market next year and likely be the #1 bat. The Mets would add that middle of the line up pop, give him a QO, and pick up another draft pick. I wonder if Jeff would step up again if this scenario unfolds.
    • Joe Janish January 12, 2016 at 12:55 am
      Thank you, DaveSchneck.

      We’ll see what happens, but I doubt Upton or Cespedes wind up in Flushing. I’m seeing the two wind up in some combination of St. Louis, Minnesota, Texas, or Chicago, with the 5+-year, 9-figure deal they seek (and I’m still not counting out the Yankees to swoop in and grab one of them, much like they came out of nowhere to take Mark Teixeira several years ago).

      To me, the De Aza deal smells too similar to the Chris Young signing, and I expect it to be similarly disappointing. Maybe if De Aza was a better center fielder I’d feel differently, but to me he profiles more as a backup plan to the possibility of Conforto imploding than a platoon partner to Lagares. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’d rather take my chances with someone with more upside and similarly questionable ability in CF, like Jay Bruce. I bet the Mets could’ve acquired Bruce and have most of his salary paid by Cincy if they parted with Rafael Montero, who at this juncture is excess.

  4. Gregg Of Boken January 14, 2016 at 8:34 am
    I share your displeasure about De Aza (though I don’t particularly feel the same about Cabrera). What I fail to understand was the timing. What was the rush to jump on De Aza for this role (even if you assume that he was the best option, which I do not)? Was there a market for DeAza that existed? Not to the best of my knowledge. And yet, the Mets signed him and didn’t even wait to view Span’s January workout. Would Span at 3 years have caused the Mets to balk? Perhaps….and if they had concerns about his medicals I would understand that. What about Parra (another worthwhile option who, at $9M per year for 3) would have been worth pursuing as well in my book).

    Instead we rushed to DeAza and took ourselves right out of the running for reasonably costed more preferable options. I don’t get it.