Miami Marlins Pursuing Outfielders Peter Bourjos, Denard Span Via Trade

The Miami Marlins would be better if a player like Denard Span manned center field for them. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Yesterday, we mentioned that the Miami Marlins were interested in acquiring a slew of potential players before or at the trade deadline this season in an effort to continue to compete. Apparently, the recent month-long slide has not deterred the Marlins' efforts in the front office to improve the team, and for that I commend them. There is something to be said about the team's front office maintaining composure and looking to improve as the Marlins continue to crumble in June.

The names involved are also interesting. From the linked Joe Frisaro piece on MLB.com in the above article.

Outfield is an area the team is actively looking, because Bonifacio may not return until around the All-Star break. Along with [Minnesota Twins outfielder Denard Span], another name to consider is Peter Bourjos of the Angels, as long as the asking price isn't too high. In spacious Marlins Park, having speed in the outfield is important. If the Marlins want more of a power bat they could be looking into someone like Houston's Carlos Lee.

The first two players listed seem like good ideas for a team that has as spacious an outfield as the Marlins. Of course, both players would have to contribute a little at the plate as well, and that is the primary difference between Denard Span and Peter Bourjos. It is worth taking a look at both center fielders and seeing if either is a good fit in the lineup and in that large center field area in Marlins Park.

Comparison

Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Avg WAR
Denard Span, 2012 281 .285 .351 .395 .331 1.5
Span, Career 2384 .285 .360 .388 .336 12.7
Span, RoS Proj 348 .275 .343 .375 .322 1.8
Peter Bourjos, 2012 117 .216 .274 .275 .248 0.4
Bourjos, Career 862 .248 .300 .404 .310 5.7
Bourjos, RoS Proj 306 .254 .302 .394 .308 2.0

On the surface, both players sound like attractive options, but both are interesting in completely different ways. Denard Span is a solid hitter with a track record of decent play, as evidenced by his career .285/.360/.388 line. If you will notice, that career line looks very similar to Emilio Bonifacio's successful .296/.360/.393 campaign from last year. Essentially, Span has been for his career what Bonifacio was in his best season, so it is understandable why the Marlins would hold such interest in him. Span has done this by avoiding the strikeouts from which Bonifacio cannot escape, as Span has struck out in just 12.2 percent of his PA in his career. He would also continue to add to the Marlins' speed component, as he has stolen 80 bases in 105 tries (77 percent) in his career.

Bourjos, on the other hand, is a free swinger and exactly the type of player at the plate that you want to avoid. For his career, Bourjos has made contact on just 76 percent of pitches swung at and has struck out in 22.2 percent of PA while walking just 5.2 percent of the time. He does offer some rare power from a center fielder (career ISO of .155), but one wonders whether a number of those fly balls will turn into home runs if he moves to the even-bigger Marlins Park.

Where Bourjos separates himself from Span is on defense. Mind you, Span is a solid defender and, depending on what defensive system you ask, a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. But Bourjos is a more likely sure bet at being a Gold Glover in the outfield, having been highly touted as a prospect for only that reason. For what it is worth, in last year's Fans Scouting Report, Bourjos was rated as an 81 center fielder on a 100-point scale, while Span was rated as a 60 in comparison. If the Marlins indeed are thinking about defense primarily, Bourjos would be an excellent choice, but both would be fair pickups overall.

What Would It Cost?

The devil here is in the details, particularly in the cost of these trades. Neither player should come cheap, as both are under team control for a long time. Span is in the third season of a five-year, $16.5 million deal, and he has $11.75 million left owed to him after this season, including a 2015 buyout for $0.5 million on a $9 million team option. Bourjos is still in pre-arbitration status and is only eligible for arbitration in 2014, so he is under team control until 2017.

Due to the lack of offense and the outfield surplus in Anaheim, it is likely that Bourjos would come at a cheaper cost than Span. However, Bourjos is liked in the Angels organization and may stick around until a spot opens up next season with Torii Hunter's free agent departure. Span is only potentially on the trading block because the Twins may need to begin rebuilding their roster, but the team would be silly to trade him for that purpose unless they get a good return for their investment.

And therein lies the problem for the Marlins: they have very little to offer to other teams. The Marlins' farm system has been decimated by sub par early-round draft choices and quick promotions. The club's prospects are either too good to trade (Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez) or not attractive enough (Matt Dominguez). There is a possibility that Chad James could hold some value, but he has done a lot this season to help devalue himself in the trade market. Dominguez is superfluous given the presence of Hanley Ramirez, but many teams are no longer interested in a player who is quickly becoming a glove-only type. The Fish may have to offer a major leaguer in return, in which case they would simply be offering top-line talent for top-line talent and moving laterally rather than improving.

The Fish are right to pursue Denard Span and Peter Bourjos, who would be two good players who would fit the Marlins' need for good defensive play in the outfield. But they cannot afford to trade talent from the major league roster away to do so, and their minor league options are less than attractive. It is a conundrum that may prove difficult to solve.

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