Daniel Nava, the Red Sox feel-good story of the past few years has been claimed by the Tampa Bay Rays after being designated for assignment on July 30. The Red Sox had signed Nava out of the independent leagues in 2008, after working as an equipment manager for his college team so he could be near the baseball team. In 2010, Nava made history by slugging a grand slam off the very first pitch in the major leagues he saw, thrown by journeyman right hander Joe Blanton.
This splash into the big leagues in 2010 did not earn him a permanent place in the majors. In May 2011, Nava was DFA’d by the team to create a 40 man roster spot because he was struggling in the minors, and he did not make it to the majors that entire season. That time, he cleared waivers and stayed in the Red Sox system. Nava made it back to the big league club in 2012, seeing 88 games of action between the two corner outfield spots. In 2013, Nava learned how to play first base in Spring Training to give himself more opportunities on the field in the majors. This willingness to help the team paid off in his increased playing time, playing 134 games, slugging 12 home runs and driving in 66 runs with an .831 OPS. Nava started six postseason games, driving in two runs in game three of the World Series.
In 2014, Nava slumped to a .706 OPS, joining in the team’s general malaise as they limped to a last place finish. With the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Rusney Castillo in the latter half of 2014, the writing was on the wall that there was not going to be a place for Nava. The switch-hitter Nava, had abandoned right handed hitting to try and get out of his doldrums this season (.442 OPS in 66 AB), but an injury and overall lack of production led to the team DFA’ing him last week.
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After parting ways with David Dejesus recently, a spot had opened up for the Rays in their outfield to hit against right handed pitchers. Nava has posted a .792 OPS vs. right handed pitching vs. .581 OPS vs. left-handed pitching in his career, so his role there will be clear. He is making just $1.85 million in his first arbitration year so he was a good experienced low-cost option for the perennially low-budget Rays.
At 32, Nava was no longer considered a prospect and the Red Sox need to evaluate their younger talent for the rest of this season to prepare for next season. Nava’s contributions to the 2013 will not be forgotten by Red Sox Nation. He certainly was not the only one to struggle this season but in his circumstances there was just no more room for him in Boston.
Good luck to Daniel Nava wherever he may land after this season. He has gotten farther in baseball than anyone would ever have thought he would.