Ever since the mega-trade which sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to Hollywood, there have been quite a few holes opening up on the team. Besides the obvious holes in the pitching staff, that trade also opened up holes at first base and left field– normally major offensive hotspots. In that trade, the Red Sox got a temporary first base solution in James Loney and Mauro Gomez has done fine since being called up from Pawtucket (.290/.330/.441, 2 home runs, 17 RBIs). However, left field is still wide open.
In 2012, the Red Sox have used six players in left field: Carl Crawford, Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, and Cody Ross. With a week left in the season, two of those players (Crawford and McDonald) are gone, and with a mix of Kalish, Nava, and Podsednik– Ross primarily plays right field– the Red Sox have no strong candidates for the position.
Podsednik has done well in his time in Boston (.309/.327/.362, 8 stolen bases), but the 36 year old is not a long term solution. Kalish has potential to be a very strong outfielder, but is not there yet and has battled through injuries to a .229/.272/.260 line in 2012. This leaves Daniel Nava as the strongest candidate at the moment.
Nava has never been a top prospect, but he became a household name in Boston after breaking onto the scene by hitting a grand slam on the first pitch of his major league career in 2010. Other than that moment, however, he hasn’t been fantastic in the majors. He has a career .246/.356/.372 line in his two seasons and hasn’t been much better than that this year, just a tick above at .249/.359/.380.
Those aren’t the numbers one normally sees from a Red Sox left fielder. However, the Red Sox have nobody better on the team right now. Besides Josh Hamilton, who will be in the market for a massive contract this offseason, there is a pretty weak free agent class with the next level of left fielders featuring such names as Ryan Ludwick, Delmon Young, Scott Hairston, and Melky Cabrera (not the same one we’ve seen for the first half of the 2012 season!).
After big years, the Red Sox probably won’t want to spend a lot of money on guys like Hamilton and Ludwick. I wouldn’t mind the signing of a guy like Delmon Young, who has a line of .272/.302/.420 to go with 18 home runs and 73 RBIs. However, he’s brutal on defense and even Nava’s subpar defense is better than Young. It’s strange to say, but at the moment, Daniel Nava might be the best option to start the 2013 season in left field.