Red Sox Allen Craig Could Be Next After Mike Napoli


It seems that the Boston Red Sox trading Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers, after clearing waivers, has an interesting twist. This new development could be a blessing or a curse for Red Sox Nation.

Sean Penney of BoSox Injection made reference to the Napoli trade, stating, “The incentive for Boston to move him was to free a roster spot that will allow them to evaluate younger players that may have a role with this team beyond this season.” Sounds like a good strategy, right? Well, take a look at Scott Lauber’s tweet from yesterday:

It seems that ‘younger players’ extends to 31 years of age. Whether that is a good or bad thing is still undecided, but someone’s going to have to play first base now.

Normally, with the Red Sox making the trade for Craig, along with pitcher Joe Kelly from the St. Louis Cardinals, he would be the obvious choice to be next in line to take over Napoli’s position. That must have been the reasoning when the trade was made in 2014: if the veteran starts to decline, replace him with a younger model.

However, Craig’s poor play and an injury demoted him to Triple-A Pawtucket to regain his form. In 71 games for the minor league affiliate, not the big club, Craig’s hit a slash line of .271/.376/.337, with three home runs, 20 RBIs, and has 41 walks to 59 strikeouts. To be fair, in his last 30 games he has hit .295.

Other players, some are currently with Boston, have either hit better or produced more than Craig when they were in Pawtucket. Blake Swihart hit .311/.363/.351 in 20 games, before being promoted as one of Boston’s starting catchers. Outfielder Carlos Peguero hit .237/.306/.495, with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 26 games. Travis Shaw, in particular, is listed as a first baseman and hit .249/.318/.356, with five home runs and 30 RBIs in 77 games, before his recent call-up.

In his report on the first base situation, Zach Cox of NESN examines the possible choices Red Sox manager John Farrell has at his disposal. Rightly so, Cox says that both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez could fill the position, but “general manager Ben Cherington said Thursday he doesn’t expect either to change positions this season.”

If that’s the case, Shaw will likely not see third base, as Sandoval will not be a full-time designated hitter with David Ortiz around. Regardless of his poor defensive play, Sandoval’s contract will require the Red Sox to milk him in the lineup as much as they can, possibly to keep him or for future deals. That means Shaw would be available for first base, sharing the duties with utility man Brock Holt, once Dustin Pedroia takes back his throne at second base, and Allen Craig, possibly.

Will Craig shine? Likely not, as he’s just doing fairly well in Triple-A, while he’s already been demoted twice by Boston. You never know, though. Either he starts to pull the weight of his $5.5 million this season, with $20 million guaranteed for the next two years, or he doesn’t. That’s a huge contract to try to move if they’ve given up on him.

They don’t need him to blow the major-league doors off, if they are trying to move Craig in the off-season; the Red Sox just need him to look as decent as Napoli (hopefully better) to see if anyone wants to take a chance on some sort of deal package. The fact that Craig wasn’t already on the waiver wire means either the Red Sox still believe in him or have lost complete faith that anyone else sees him as an asset. That way of thinking has to change, one way or another.

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