The Boston Red Sox and Allen Craig may be like two ships passing in the night, with one regretting the decision the next morning.
MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato reported about the issues with the outfield and the Red Sox’ strategy, once Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello. “The next logical move would involve parting with either Allen Craig, Daniel Nava or Brock Holt, the team’s fifth and sixth outfielders and utility player, respectively. Sources told MassLive that the Red Sox have not appeared interested in trading Holt this offseason. Last year they were said to be equally reluctant to talk about Nava” (Mastrodonato).
It makes sense on multiple levels why Craig would be the odd man out of Boston’s outfield issues. Even merely for optics. Craig did not win Red Sox Nation over in his time with the club, after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals with Joe Kelly for John Lackey‘s veteran presence and playoff experience. After a great start to his career, Craig had a dismal 2014 campaign in St. Louis, batting .237 with 77 strikeouts in 97 games. It only got worse for him in Boston, batting a putrid .128, with only two RBIs to show for his 12 hits and 36 strikeouts in 107 plate appearances.
Craig’s numbers between 2010 and 2013 were much the factors in Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington’s decision to consider him an asset. It was 2014’s result that St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said was the factor in why Craig was used in the trade: “I would hope [Craig could turn it around], but there were concerns. Obviously, big picture, we were hopeful, but that’s not the best way to build a roster. It was more, ‘If the struggles continued how we were going to let him play his way out of it when we had other options?’” (Mastrodonato).
The 30-year-old California native has the Red Sox on the hook for $25.5 million until 2018, where his contract has a $13 million team option and a $1 million buyout clause. That is a lot of money for a struggling player who is lower in the depth chart than other players whom were either signed recently to even bigger money, like Hanley Ramirez, or whom make much less for their services, like Holt, Nava, and rising star Mookie Betts.
Even with arbitration, Nava is likely to make a lot less money than Craig’s giant burden of a contract. Last year, Nava hit a decent .270, with a .346 on-base percentage. He had decent enough power to earn 21 doubles and four home runs in 113 games. Nothing incredible, but Nava looked as a distinct improvement to Craig.
Holt may not factor in moving Craig as much as people think. Holt has the ability to play the outfield, but his excellent fielding around the bases make him more suited to play his utility role elsewhere. He did spend most of his time between third base and right field, but mainly out of injury necessities. With Betts shining in center and recent all-star signing Pablo Sandoval taking over the five-spot on defense, Holt’s best chance is to take over at shortstop, which has been a sore spot for the Red Sox, with multiple players trying and failing to solidify their ownership of the role. Holt’s .281 batting average and 12 stolen bases also keep him above these others, as well as Craig, from seeing the starting lineup or a substitute capacity.
With lots of rumors floating around about trade talks with other clubs, it is still hard seeing a general manager wanting to take Craig’s contract and poor play away from Boston. His contract only goes up from last season, and even to release him will cost money years from now. The Red Sox may need to play Craig to prove his worth in a trade, which means some assignments in the minors or even the big club. These moves may also prove risky, as his play may decline even further, sending his market value into the depths of of mediocrity. Can Craig show all of the doubters wrong and resurrect his career, becoming a staple outfielder in Beantown? The Cardinals once thought that he would be the future of their club. Now, is he the future of any club?