Don’t give up on Allen Craig… yet


The John Lackey trade, in which the Red Sox dealt the reliable veteran to the Cardinals in exchange for young pitcher Joe Kelly and rehab project Allen Craig, has been an experiment from the start.

In dealing Lackey, the Red Sox lost a year of a solid starting pitcher (though he has struggled in St. Louis since the trade, Lackey was 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA at the time of the deal) for the league minimum salary, betting that Lackey would opt to retire rather than play for the minimum. Plus, taking on Kelly and Craig was a bit of a gamble in its own right. While Kelly is a safe bet to develop into at least a back-end starter, however, Craig is the real variable that could swing this trade massively in Boston’s favor.

Don’t get me wrong, Craig is in the midst of a miserable 2014 season that has seen him slash .221/.285/.326 overall and he has been even worse since joining the Red Sox, slashing .119/.246/.203 in 19 games in Boston. However, now is not the time to judge whether or not the Red Sox were right to acquire Craig and forfeit their right to an additional year of Lackey.

It’s fairly clear that Craig is still recovering from a Lisfranc injury in his foot, an injury which forced him to miss nearly all of last September. That injury hampered his performance in last season’s playoffs and, judging by his 2014 performance, it is probably continuing to negatively affect Craig’s performance at the plate.

After an offseason of rest, though, it’s conceivable that Craig will finally be fully recovered from that broken Lisfranc bone. And if he is fully recovered, then the Red Sox will have effectively bought low on an elite bat. Remember, we’re talking about a player who has a career line of .285/.340/.451 and will still be just 30 years old next Opening Day.

There’s not currently an opening for Craig on the roster with Mike Napoli manning first base and a logjam of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Daniel Nava, and Shane Victorino in the outfield. However, given the front office’s recent statements, it appears the Red Sox will be doing a fair amount of roster shuffling this offseason and, if Craig is not dealt, then they may clear an everyday role for him. And if they are unable or unwilling to open up an everyday position, then they’ll be able to work him back to shape slowly, plugging him into a platoon or bench role.

If Craig is not back to his old self, or at least back to respectability, a few months into next season, then it may be time to worry. However, considering his injury and his move from a perennial contender to cellar-dwelling Boston, it’s no wonder that he’s not at top form right now. While Craig hasn’t done anything to encourage fans since joining the Red Sox, the time to worry about him has not yet come.