Denard Span knows he could be playing his final games with the team that drafted him.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS —Denard Span has been the subject of trade speculation before. Twice, actually.
Prior to last year's trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins center fielder and leadoff hitter heard his name rumored as a possible trade candidate. And again this year, Span's name came up in trade rumors as the deadline neared.
Both times, the deadline came and went and Span remained a Twin, a fact he was grateful for. But in just a few weeks, Span enters an offseason with perhaps as much uncertainty as he faced leading up to the previous two trade deadlines.
Minnesota has a glut of outfielders at both the major league and minor league levels and needs to figure out how its starting outfield will look next season. Currently, they have Ben Revere, Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni and Matt Carson as potential outfielders on the roster along with Span. Waiting in the wings at Double-A New Britain are a pair of talented outfield prospects in Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks. Hicks is not currently on the 40-man roster, but he could be added this offseason.
As valuable as Span is as a leadoff hitter and an above-average defensive center fielder, he may be the odd man out as the Twins look to solidify their outfield for 2013. Span's team-friendly contract would make him a valuable trade chip — a fact he's been made well aware of after the last two trade deadlines.
"I know it's already stirring up a little bit," Span said Wednesday of the rumors. "Whatever happens is going to happen. I think I've come to the conclusion that there's nothing I can do. If I get traded, or if somebody gets traded, it's not for a bad thing. It's because we've got quality players that play the same position."
Span was asked Wednesday if he preferred hearing anything from the Twins' front office as rumors swirled, or if he'd rather wait to hear the news when it happened. During the last two trade deadlines, Span said he didn't hear a thing.
"They're not going to do that. I've been through two trade deadlines and nobody's ever come to me before a trade deadline and said, ‘This is what we're going to do,' " Span said. "Honestly, I'm not sure they know what they want to do. … I think it's one of those things where if the right deal or the right situation approaches, that's what will happen. I don't think they know."
Span returned to the Twins' lineup Wednesday against the Royals after spending time on the disabled list with a collarbone injury. He didn't miss a beat in his first game since Aug. 27 as he led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple. Span later singled to center and reached on an infield single to raise his average to .290 on the season.
Before the game, Span admitted feeling some anxiety about returning for the first time in over two weeks. He didn't show it at the plate.
"He should be anxious," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Span. "He's been sitting out for a while. He's done a lot of work to get back to this point, so he's ready to go."
Span was the Twins' first round pick in the 2002 draft (20th overall) out of Tampa Catholic High School. In 2010, he signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract to stay with the team that drafted him.
Whether he'll finish out that contract in Minnesota is the question mark that will hang over Span's head this offseason. The Twins desperately need to add pitching this winter, and Span is the type of player (with the type of contract) that could help Minnesota acquire pitching via a trade.
Going through this process before has led Span to realize that everything is out of his control. He'd love to stay with the only organization he's ever known, but he also realizes that might not be his call.
"I've been here for 10 years. This is the only uniform I've ever put on, so this is all I know. I'm comfortable here," Span said. "… I signed my five-year contract three years ago. It's amazing that I only have possibly two more years left on it. I think each day that goes by, I realize that you know what, chances are I may not be here for much longer. I'm just looking at it in a positive way. I know that I'm a good player. Whatever happens, happens."