Lots of talk about the Span extension around. Jesse compared the contract to estimated values of WAR and came to the conclusion that it's a good deal. John Bonnes compared the contract to other centerfielders' and came to the opposite conclusion. I want to do something different: compare it to the arbitration floor as represented by some of the Twins' least valuable players. I suppose this might apply to the Blackburn contract as well.
Span's contract will pay him a little extra the next couple years, then, barring something weird with service time, $3M in his Arb 1 year, $4.75M in his Arb 2 year, and $6.5M in his Arb 3 year. What are other guys getting?
Delmon Young, everybody's favorite whipping boy, the sixth-worst hitter in baseball by WAR at -1.3, hit 284/308/425 while playing atrocious defense, and the Twins bought out his Arb 1 year for $2.6M.
JJ Hardy was surprisingly useful last year at 1.4 WAR due to good fielding at shortstop, but hit just 229/302/357 in the National League and managed to get himself dumped back to AAA, had the eighth-worst OPS of anyone with 450+ PAs, and the Twins bought out what's essentially Arb 2b for $5.1M.
Heck, go back to Luis Rivas, whose first arbitration year was way back in 2004. He was never even as good as Young, and that was six years ago, and he still made $1.5M.
What this adds up to is the not-so-startling revelation that arbitration is really expensive, even for players who aren't very good. So ideas of saving a bunch of money on Span by going year-to-year are overblown at best. It might make sense to do that if the Twins would be willing to non-tender him if he turned into a pumpkin, but I think we've learned by now that they wouldn't. Meanwhile there's a fair amount of upside to the deal if he does improve.