On one hand, the 31-year-old center fielder has delivered exactly what the Nationals hoped for when they acquired him before the 2013 season. After a solid first season in D.C., Span slashed .302/.355/.416 in 2014 and stole 31 bases. Given his modest price tag, Span has provided excellent value.
However, while Span's production -- .301/.365/.431 -- hasn't suffered this year, his health has. Span recovered fairly quickly from hernia surgery this offseason, but back and abdominal issues plagued him mid-season before an aggravated hip problem led to season-ending surgery. In total, Span made only 275 plate appearances in 2015.
In this latest case, though his recovery timetable is still unclear, there's no reason to believe he won't be ready for spring training. In fact, Span tweeted earlier this week that the early steps in the recovery process are going well.
That said, Span's list of injuries (he struggled with concussions early in his career) complicate his immediate value when assessing if the Nationals should make the one-year, $15.8 million offer.
If Span remains on track for a relatively full 2016 season, however, a high-dollar, multi-year deal with another club will make Washington's qualifying offer far less attractive. Some argue that this lowers the risk factor considerably for Washington. If Span signs with another team and begins to decline, then the Nationals would do well to pick up a compensation draft pick. If Span does take the offer, however, he provides a left-handed alternative in center to backup Michael Taylor, who strikes out uncomfortably often. On top of that, a one-year commitment lowers the risk even further.
Admittedly, it is an expensive one-year commitment for a player who could spend most the season on the bench.
While the Nationals plod through an agonizingly long list of decisions this winter, here's the other buzz making its way around the majors today:
Nationals: The list is endless! Front office opinion is split over how Washington should approach its offseason, reports ESPN.com's Jim Bowden. With a talented core already in place, should the Nationals try to build a winning team this offseason or push the reboot button? Bowden argues that the team has young players ready to replace the potential four key free-agent departures in Span, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Ian Desmond. With the additions of a reliable starter and a middle-of-the-order bat to complement Bryce Harper, Washington could be just a few tweaks away from leaving behind a messy 2015.
Baltimore Orioles: Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter laughingly dismissed reports of brewing conflict in their relationship. "We better disagree about some things and kick things around. I disagree with my coaches. They disagree with me," Showalter told reporters, including Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun. Showalter added later that the occasional prickly moments are actually conducive to building a better club: "Honestly, I think it's a positive . . . When something comes up, we all sit down and talk about things. Everyone has a say." Duquette chalked up the rumored tension in their relationship to standard gossip. Of course, if there were underlying problems, neither would likely openly admit so to the media. Friction seemed to reach a high point this season when the O's traded Tommy Hunter shortly after the addition of Gerardo Parra. Many in the clubhouse were furious that the club appeared to be cutting costs with the Hunter trade instead of striving for the playoffs.
Miami Marlins: The Marlins could make a big splash if they lure Don Mattingly over to Miami. MLB.com's Joe Frisario supports recent reports that claim owner Jeff Loria has taken a particular interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers' skipper. Marlins president David Samson said that the organization could interview anywhere from "four to 20" candidates during the managerial search, but Mattingly appears to be the primary target. The Dodgers, however, have given no indication that they are willing to part with Mattingly. If they are, it could cost the Marlins a player or future draft pick. Alex Cora is also a reported candidate of interest. His name has been linked to most clubs with managerial openings, and he's expected to interview with the Marlins, Nationals and San Diego Padres.
Los Angeles Angels: Both the Angels and impending free-agent David Freese are mutually interested in his return to the club next season, writes MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. The 32-year-old is perfectly average at third base, but with few alternatives on the market this winter, Freese could price himself out of the Angels' comfort zone. "A lot of things have to happen on both sides," Freese admitted of a possible reunion.