Allen Craig is having a rough season in 2014. Still recovering from a Lisfranc injury which prematurely ended his 2013 season and significantly hampered his production in last year’s playoffs, Craig is in the midst of the worst season of his career. From 2011-2013, Craig slashed .312/.354/.500 but this season, that line has dipped to a meager .237/.291/.348 through 402 plate appearances.
However, even with that poor performance to date in 2014, the Red Sox have taken a chance on him; he was one of two pieces they received in exchange for starting pitcher John Lackey, the other being solid-but-unspectacular pitcher Joe Kelly. The Red Sox are taking a gamble on Craig, banking on him eventually recovering from that injury whether it be this year or with some extra rest over the offseason. And if Craig is able to fully recover then the Red Sox will have found themselves one hell of a steal.
After all, while a fully-recovered Allen Craig’s bat would play anywhere, he conveniently would also be able to slide into perhaps the two greatest areas of need for the future of the Red Sox. Mike Napoli is only under contract for one more year and the Red Sox don’t have much depth behind him, so Allen Craig would be able to slot in at first base if need be. Plus, even if the Red Sox re-sign Napoli or if Boston finds another first baseman from inside or outside of the organization, then they also don’t have major depth in the corner outfield positions and Craig could fill that role.
And while Craig is no sure bet to recover fully and return to his 2011-2013 form, he won’t be a significant hindrance to the Red Sox’ payroll even if he doesn’t. Craig signed a 5 year/$31M contract before the 2013 season, a contract that will be extremely affordable if Craig can return to form and not a huge problem if he does not.
The Red Sox will likely give Craig the rest of the 2014 season to attempt to figure himself out at the plate. The move from Busch Stadium to Fenway Park should help improve his slugging percentage a bit and help him regain some of the power that has made him an elite hitter for the past three years. However, don’t be alarmed if Craig still struggles for the rest of 2014. His real trial will be the 2015 season when he will hopefully be recovered from his Lisfranc injury; and if he does return to form next season, then the Red Sox will have added a key piece to Ben Cherington’s next great Red Sox team.