The limbo that outfielder and first baseman Allen Craig must have been feeling, since the end of last season, is close to being over. The question is: what will the Boston Red Sox do with him? Keep him or trade him?
ESPN Boston‘s Gordon Edes reported, yesterday, that rumors are swirling that the Red Sox could be close to a deal for Craig, which is why the 30-year-old keeps getting extensive playing time this spring training. Nothing on any trade talks could be confirmed, but, according to Edes, “the Red Sox insist Craig’s workload is related to their desire to give him as much playing time as possible after last season’s disappointing performance that followed his 2013 foot injury. Talent evaluators following the Sox, however, maintain that the added exposure is tied to the team’s desire to trade him to alleviate their crowded outfield situation.”
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Both could be completely valid, and the Red Sox would be foolish to tip their hand in either direction, at this time. However, Edes caps the point by saying, “At this point, it remains a rumor, but there is no question that clubs have had at least preliminary discussions with the Sox about the 30-year-old Craig.” The Red Sox cannot seem like they want to just dump Craig, or else they will not get anything significant in return and, if they don’t trade him, nobody wants him to lose his confidence with that type of attitude of his services floating around.
The 5-year veteran from California was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 8th round in 2006, with plans of keeping him as a star. In 2013, the year that the Red Sox won their latest World Series championship, Craig became an All-Star for the first time, hitting .315, with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. However, through injury and poor play, Craig only hit .237 and 44 RBIs in 97 games, last season, prompting the Cardinals to trade him to the Red Sox in a packaged deal for playoff-proven pitcher John Lackey.
Mar 19, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig (5) at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
It only got worse for Craig in Boston, hitting only .128, with a home run and 2 RBIs in 94 at-bats, while picking up more injuries. Edes said, “He refused to blame his injury, but his mechanics were clearly impacted at the plate. So far this spring, Craig has posted a .275/.348/.400/.748 slash line, with 11 hits, including two doubles and a home run.”
Take what you will from spring training numbers. If we want to do that, we could do the same with the rest of the outfielders and first basemen on the current roster. Manager John Farrell has already declared that Hanley Ramirez will be in left field, while Shane Victorino will start the season in right field. Center field could be between the youngster Mookie Betts or the Cuban Rusney Castillo. Regardless, Craig’s name is not mentioned in the conversation often. Betts, Daniel Nava, and Brock Holt also have the inside edge on coming off the bench, if needed.
Between Mike Napoli and the face of the franchise David Ortiz, it will be hard to see Craig getting playing time at first base, as well, barring any injury. Since many of the batters on the Red Sox hit right-handed, Craig’s bat will not look unique to American League East pitching, if he does not show that he can produce.
Improvement or not, the strategy can only benefit the Red Sox. If Craig plays well enough, maybe they could keep him or he will look attractive enough to be traded to a team desiring his skills. Either way, Craig and the Red Sox can only benefit from the increased at-bats.
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