WSH@ARI: Span makes a last-second backhanded grab

WASHINGTON -- Center fielder Denard Span recently said he is feeling comfortable playing for the Nationals, but his time with the team may soon come to an end. A talent evaluator confirmed a report from CBSSports.com that the Nats are listening to trade offers for the left-handed-hitting outfielder.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Span was surprised that he could be traded for the second time in two years. He has heard his name in trade talks dating back to when he was with Minnesota. In 2011, for example, the Twins were thinking about trading Span to the Nationals, but the deal never materialized because he missed most of the season due to a concussion. Span was eventually dealt to Washington after the 2012 season for right-hander Alex Meyer.

"My first reaction was, 'Here we go again,'" Span said. "I dealt with trade rumors the last two years. It surprised me because I've been in Washington for one year. The guys in Washington have been trying to get me for a while, and to hear rumors this quick after one year is surprising."

Span has not talked to anyone from the Nats' organization about the trade rumors, and general manager Mike Rizzo didn't say whether Span was on the trade block. Rizzo indicated that the team's offense was inconsistent this past season.

"I don't think I'd say, 'As Denard goes, we go.' It helps to have your leadoff man on base to be driven in by the big guns," Rizzo said. "I think our offensive issues had to do with a lot of inconsistencies in the lineup. You had key parts in your lineup missing big chunks of the season -- Jayson Werth missing [33] games, Bryce Harper missing 42 games or so and Wilson Ramos missing a big chunk of the season."

After a slow start in the first half, Span hit .302 after the All-Star break and had a Major League-leading 29-game hitting streak. Who can forget his defensive prowess in center field? Span didn't commit an error in 384 total chances.

"As far as Denard goes, [this is his] first time in a new league, outside of the only organization [he has] ever known," Rizzo said. "Adjusting not only to a new franchise, but a new league, and a bunch of new pitchers in that league, it took him a little longer than he would want to get rolling. But when he got rolling, he showed you what Denard Span can do offensively.

"Defensively, he never wavered for a second. He was terrific -- Gold Glove-caliber the whole season, from Day 1. He never took his [offensive] woes, early in the season, into the field."

If the Nationals are able to deal Span, they could try to sign free-agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The talent evaluator said the Nats have interest in Ellsbury, who helped the Red Sox win the World Series title this past season. He hit .298 with 92 runs scored and an American League-leading 52 stolen bases.

Span said he has respect for Ellsbury, but Span feels he would be the better choice for the Nationals.

"I've competed against him in the American League and Minor Leagues," Span said. "I've always been a fan of the way he plays the game. Both of us have similar-type games. I've always respected him.

"But I would be a fool if I thought he was better than me. I'm a competitor, first and foremost. It's up to the Nationals. ... If they feel he can do a better job than me -- hey, they do what they have to do. But in my opinion, that would be a big mistake."

Span has one year, plus a team option on his contract, and he hopes the next two years are with the Nats.

"I have it in my mind that I was coming back. I also want to come back," Span said. "As the season ended, I started to get more comfortable with my teammates. So I definitely want to be back there. I had fun there. Good group of guys, good teammates. I like the organization as well."

Worth noting

• The Nationals re-signed infielder Josh Johnson to a Minor League deal. He is now in his fourth season in the Nats' organization. Johnson played for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this past season, hitting a combined .293 with eight home runs, 42 RBIs and a .390 on-base percentage.

• Rizzo confirmed that the Nationals are losing assistant general manager Roy Clark to the Dodgers. Clark will be reunited with Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who was once in the same role with the Nats and Braves. Rizzo did not say who would replace Clark in Washington.