Denard Span has been on the trading block for awhile now, at least since the trade deadline last season where rumors had him close to going to the Nationals for Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard and a mix of prospects. He is still a twin and still on the trading block when in general it is a poor idea to trade away young, cheap, popular players who produce at above average levels on offense and defense while playing a marquee skill position and filling a marquee hole in the batting order. However the Twins find themselves in circumstances that make such a move palatable. They are in this position because of the strengths and the weaknesses of the organization as a whole.
The twins have a glut of outfield depth, especially in center field, in the MLB and throughout the minors. Backing up Span in the center field depth chart are Ben Revere, who is already in the MLB and producing similar if not better defense and far superior speed and base running ability though certainly sacrificing a lot in the plate discipline and obp skills, Aaron Hicks in AA/ AAA who profiles as a player very similar to Span with added defense, arm, power, and base running, Joe Benson in AA who if he re finds prior success could be a lethal power/speed/defense combo player, and Byron Buxton a long way away but in the system and gifted with a lot of potential down the road, even Eddie Rosario could be shifted back to center should everything else fail. Add onto that a place for Chris Parmalee to play if Morneau is still here next season, Arcia at AA/ AAA who could be demanding a corner outfield spot with the foreseeable future around the same time as Hicks, and the longer out big potentials like Max Kepler, Miguel Sano (with a possible needed move off 3rd and a cannon arm), and any other corner outfielders that prove themselves and earn a chance or any free agent corner outfielders that are always available and could be easily had and produce (see Willingham, Josh).
Compare that to the depth chart for starting pitching, beginning in the MLB with Scott Diamond who had a great year but profiles as a number 3 at best, then abruptly skipping 4 spots and going to Kyle Gibson in AAA/ MLB who is on an innings count coming off Tommy John though looking good and profiling as a solid number 2/3, then scrape the rest of AA/ AAA for a hope that someone turns into a viable 4 or 5 down the road, then get to multiple years out guys with questions but potential like Hudson Boyd, Adrian Salcedo, and eventually the extremely young but promising Jose Berrios. That is pretty much it, 2 rotation spots filled save for hopeful number 5's, and neither the number 1 or possibly 2, for at least a year if not 2 or 3.
That all equates to the twins having the absolute need, if they want to achieve anything but being the Royals of the recent past for the next few years , to deal some outfield depth for starting pitching possibilities. Weather eventual outcomes pan out or not, the state the organization is in currently in is dire, and something needs to be done about it. Based on mid market payroll, and a far less than aggressive approach to the free agent market, some assets need to be moved for pitching and center field is by far the biggest pool to draw from to do so. Trading Willingham might seem to provide a bit more possible return. Though his age, more expensive contract (even be it very friendly), negative defense, and his position being somewhere to hide shitty defense for power, will diminish that return. The depth chart behind him is also far less sparse considering there are 2 corners in the outfield and the true power prospects are farther out. That makes Span by the far most expendable asset the twins have because he can be replaced by Revere who doesn't match his output but nullifies enough of the loss to be a major positive to the future of the organization.
Span wasn't traded for a top tier closer, or maybe one in the making, and prospects at the last trade deadline (which I am very glad for, a reliever for a solid position player is never good). He also wasn't shopped a whole lot in the off season when Revere still had many more question marks around him. That would seem to diminish his value in current market as it is known the twins have the depth and weakness that they do.
However in the current market Span could have a ton of value. Teams looking to improve, or maintain through change or minimal or no loss in productivity, are going to be in a interesting situation with this off season. As I see it there are 5 center fielders that a team wanting to contend could add in the off season to improve themselves. That list is comprised of Josh Hamilton, Micheal Bourn, Bj Upton, Angel Pagan, and Denard Span. 4 of the 5 are lead off type guys with varying skill sets. So I will single Hamilton out being that he is a middle of the order, massive power guy, though he comes with a ton of question marks involving physical and mental durability, and on top of that whatever team pays him out the wazoo would probably be better playing him at a corner outfield position to minimize the potential he gets hurts or loses focus. The other 4, including Span ,provide varying lead off skill sets from power to speed to OBP. The sum of which seems to provide roughly the same production to a team from the cf/ and lead off position.
The gigantic difference in all 5 candidates is that Denard Span is available through trading future potential for low salary vs production (4.5, 6.75, 9 mil team option) vs the other 4 that are going to require probably 10-20+ millon a year, depending on the guy, for multiple years. The Braves, Nationals, Rays, Red Sox, Marlins, Rangers, and more could all be fits and hopefully other teams wanting to improve their current for their future drives the price of the 1A choice in the trade market at CF and lead off to bring solid return for trading what should be a rarely touched asset.