Nationals may shut down Denard Span after a month of back problems

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Nationals center fielder Denard Span sat out Tuesday’s game with a back injury and afterward admitted that he’s “tried to play through it for the last month.”

Span first had back spasms on June 7 and Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes that Tuesday was the eighth time he’s had to either sit out a game or leave a game early since then, so the Nationals may decide he needs a disabled list stint.

It’s a tough decision, because when healthy enough to be in the lineup Span has hit .329 with 13 walks, eight steals, and a .430 on-base percentage during the past month to remain a huge key atop the Nationals’ lineup. And because the outfield is already missing injured left fielder Jayson Werth the Nationals would be patching together the other two spots alongside right fielder Bryce Harper.

Braves sign reliever Will Smith to three-year, $39 million contract

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The Braves announced on Thursday that the club has inked lefty reliever Will Smith to a three-year, $39 million contract with a club option for the 2023 season worth $13 million. Smith received a qualifying offer worth $17.8 million from the Giants, so he opted for a lower average annual value for a longer contract.

Smith, 30, was an All-Star last season with the Giants, finishing with 34 saves, a 2.76 ERA, and a 96/21 K/BB ratio across 65 1/3 innings. Across parts of seven seasons in the majors, he has a 3.53 ERA.

Smith, the top free agent left-handed reliever, will join a strong Braves bullpen which already includes Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Sean Newcomb.