Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Denard Span has announced his retirement. The 11-year MLB veteran, who last played in 2018 for the Seattle Mariners, confirmed his retirement to MLB Trade Rumors.
Span — who turned 36 in February — cited disappointment that no one signed him for more than a minimum contract. And while he admitted that his skills have diminished from the player who earned MVP shares and led the league in hits in 2014, he wasn’t willing to play for a dollar amount that he felt misrepresented his talent level.
“I’m a man of principles, and when those principles aren’t met, I can’t go along with it,” Span told the site. “I’m not the player that I was when I was in D.C. or when I was in Minnesota. But, I still know that I have value. I’m not a center fielder or premier player anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help a ballclub win a championship or win games ... I got an offer for league minimum. It was just unreal.”
At the risk of sounding like a horrible political pundit, it’s easy to see both sides here. The last time Span played, he slashed .261/.341/.419, good for a 112 wRC+ and 2.1 rWAR in 501 plate appearances. On the surface, that’s a player that deserves more than the minimum.
On the other hand, teams in this era simply aren’t investing in older players whose skill sets are deteriorating. After all, the Giants signed now-37-year-old Hunter Pence — fresh off a 128 wRC+ season in which he was worth 1.6 rWAR despite getting just 316 plate appearances — for a mere $3 million during the offseason.
Span’s defense has fallen off to the point where he’s a bit of a liability with the glove, but not quite a good enough hitter to warrant being on a roster merely as a designated hitter. It’s a tough spot to be in, and it’s an unforgiving league.
But credit to Span for knowing what the sacrifices of playing in the league are worth to him and his family.
“I just couldn’t see myself at this point in my career giving in or compromising myself,” Span said. “Especially where I’m at in my life, being a husband and a father. It’s already hard enough to be away from my family, and now they want me to play for less than what I humbly feel I deserve.”
Span played for the Giants in 2016 and 2017, and served as the team’s starting center fielder. He hit .268/.330/.402 for the Giants, and was worth 0.4 rWAR (though, to be fair, 2.4 fWAR). The Giants traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2018 season, as part of the package that brought Evan Longoria to San Francisco.