Updated from earlier version….
SAN FRANCISCO – Bruce Bochy is about to manage his 21st major league season. He owns three World Series rings and has won four pennants. He’s led several other clubs to playoff appearances.
Up the middle, he cannot think of a stronger group than what the Giants promise to field in 2016.
“I really can’t,” said Bochy, as the Giants introduced center fielder Denard Span on Friday. “We’re set everywhere right now. Usually you go to spring training and have some question marks.”
The Giants spent all winter gathering exclamation points.
They spent $220 million to back ace Madison Bumgarner with pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. They locked up Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford to a six-year extension. They still have Buster Posey behind the plate, and second baseman Joe Panik is fully recovered from his lower back injury. Now their up-the-middle strength extends to center field, where Span combines contact skills in the leadoff spot with the ability to flag down baseballs faster than gravity can.
Up the middle, and on paper, the Giants appear to be the team to beat in the National League West.
And Bochy does not appear intimidated by the pressure that comes with that.
“I couldn’t ask for more. It’s been a terrific offseason,” Bochy said. “Now it’s up to us. On paper, we look great. Now we have to go out and do it.”
Span, who signed a three-year, $31 million contract, was the final stroke. Bochy said out of respect to Angel Pagan, whom he has only traded texts to this point, he wouldn’t come out and declare Span the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. But Bochy called Span one of the best center fielders and leadoff hitters in the game, and that “you’ll have that answer soon.”
So there you go. Pagan is expected to be the left fielder, if he isn’t traded, and Gregor Blanco the fourth outfielder.
“I’m thrilled and excited to have such an elite athlete like Denard,” Bochy said. “Seeing him from the other side, I just love and respect how he plays the game. You’re getting one of the best center fielders and a proven leadoff hitter. This ballpark will suit him so well with room to roam out there. He makes great contact. There’s a lot of room out there for extra-base hits. He’s thrilled to be here and that’s exciting for us. It gives us so much depth. It gives me so much flexibility.”
It doesn’t appear Bochy will have to spend any time soothing bruised egos when it comes to Span, who smiled broadly as he put on a Giants No.2 jersey and called it surreal to attend one of these free-agent pony shows after watching them on television all his life.
The Giants glowed about Span’s reputation for class and professionalism and he even displayed his sense of humor, saying it “seems they win the World Series every other year.”
“I told Boch this morning I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Span said. “I’ve been through a lot, and last year was a tough year for me but I’m ready to turn the page. I’m looking forward to new challenges and just helping this ballclub win.”
The 31-year-old from Tampa missed more than 100 games last year and has undergone three surgeries since December, 2014, for sports hernias and a damaged hip labrum. But he said his rehab from the hip procedure in September is ahead of schedule and he anticipated being unrestricted when he reports to spring training.
“If we had a game today, I could play,” he said.
Agent Scott Boras called Span’s surgeries “one-time fixes. They have it done and they’re fine. It’s not something that recurs or re-engages.”
Boras said 11 teams wanted to sign Span to a one-year contract, and a pillow contract to reestablish his value wouldn’t have been inadvisable. But Span made it clear that he wanted to sign a multiyear deal in a winning environment, and the Giants stepped up.
Span will receive a $6 million signing bonus (for which he’ll avoid paying California state taxes), a $3 million salary next year and $9 million in each of the following two years. A $12 million mutual option for 2019 includes a $4 million buyout; Span can maximize an additional $5 million in bonuses if he plays in 100 games with 525 plate appearances per season.
Boras said even back in October, he had earmarked the Giants as a perfect fit.
“It’s rare in baseball you have someone who fulfills two dramatic needs for a team,” said Boras, calling Span the MVP of the Washington Nationals in 2014. “The impact of this signing is far bigger than people think.”
The Giants looked past heavier hitters still on the open market, including Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, because they preferred a defensive center fielder with leadoff ability. Span also ranks among the hardest players to strike out, which fits their contact-oriented lineup. And he’s led the league in triples twice – skills that the wide-open spaces of AT&T Park should only accentuate.
Now he, and the rest of the Giants, just need to be healthy. Then perhaps Bochy’s paper tigers will roar into October.
“We had some needs, and I don’t think we could’ve filled those needs better than what we did this offseason,” Bochy said. “We had a need for a couple starting pitchers and got two really, really good ones. We needed help in the outfield and had Denard, to be able to bring him on board, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s been a terrific offseason and now it’s up to us to go out there and play like we’re capable of playing.”
Source : http://blogs.mercurynews.com/giants/2016/01/08/denard-span-ecstatic-to-join-giants-it-seems-they-win-the-world-series-every-other-year/