CLEARWATER , Fla. — Center fielder Denard Span and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a $16.5 million, five-year contract, a deal that includes a $9 million team option for 2015.
“We go through a pretty good checklist of criteria before we enter discussions with a player about a long-term contract and he has been very good for us for two years,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said before Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “We thought the time was right. It’s a big deal for him, it provides him with a lot of security. It provides us some certainty with our leadoff hitter and center fielder.”
Span became the Twins’ everyday center fielder when they traded Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee in the offseason. The 26-year-old Span, a product of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School, is one of five Minnesota regulars that the team drafted out of high school and watched blossom into big leaguers.
“We’ve had a good run with (Joe) Mauer, (Justin) Morneau, (Michael) Cuddyer, (Jason) Kubel) and Span,” Smith said. “It’s a tribute to our scouting staff, it’s a tribute to our minor league staff, it’s a tribute to our big league staff that we’re able to bring young kids to the big leagues and let them play, to have the patience to let them play and let them grow.
Span, who wasn’t eligible for arbitration for another two years, was Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2002. He spent several years in the minor leagues before cementing a spot on the big league roster last year. He hit .311 with eight homers, 10 triples and 68 RBIs in 145 games, while playing excellent defense in all three outfield spots.
“We’ve seen (Span) grow from the rookie league, step by step through the minor leagues and he’s in the process of fulfilling all of those expectations, all of those projections that our scouts made on him when he was in high school,” Smith said.