Red Sox Allen Craig Needed For Dec. More Than Sept.


The Boston Red Sox recently called up first baseman Allen Craig from the minors to be added to the 40-man roster. It would be exciting for most teams to see a player come from the farm and see what he can do against top MLB pitching. However, that’s not the case with Craig; Red Sox Nation will likely be more interested in how Craig fares come December.

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Every first of September, MLB teams are allowed to expand their rosters from a 25-man roster to give their farm system’s prospects some major-league experience with the added benefit of providing relief support for the older players, after the long grind of the regular season. Yet, for the Red Sox, the expansion will be used for less-jubilant reasons than a post-season run. It will be more intriguing and, perhaps, provocative when Craig’s September with the Red Sox is concluded.

Tim Britton of The Providence Journal covered the story of Craig’s return to Boston, recently, stating, “Craig returned to Fenway Park on Tuesday, after nearly four months in Triple-A. His return isn’t quite triumphant, as interim manager Torey Lovullo said he views Craig as a backup at first base to Travis Shaw and the team’s fourth outfielder for the time being.”

Craig is 31 years old and has played in the big leagues for six years, the majority being with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was an All-Star in 2013 while batting .315, which he also hit in 2011. Craig smashed 92 RBIs in 2012 and 97 in the following season, making him look like a successful eighth-round pick for the Cards in 2006. Now, after injuries, poor play, and a trade before even more injuries and poor play, Craig is now the backup to a 25-year-old prospect whom has only hit .182 in his last seven games. Craig was even put on waivers, and he cleared them quietly. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Britton reported Craig saying, “”I’m always trying to prove myself, but also I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in the time I have spent in the big leagues […] In that sense, I don’t need to prove that. Do I need to prove I can get back there? Absolutely. But I feel confident. I feel great about where I’m at. I know I’m a good player. I’m just looking forward to being back here and playing.” Craig added that he feels his swing is where he wants it to be.

For his prodigal return, it better be.

In terms of his 2015 production, Craig’s time in Triple-A Pawtucket resulted in four home runs and 30 RBIs, with a slash line of .274/.368/.350 in 93 games. To put that into perspective, his counterpart at first base for Boston was also the same in Pawtucket, where Shaw hit five home runs and 30 RBIs with a .249/.318/.356 slash line in 77 games. And, it’s not like Shaw was necessarily brought into Boston’s fold for his bat; he was brought in as a good glove to fill in for third baseman Pablo Sandoval or former first baseman Mike Napoli, if they were injured or needed a rest.

Craig’s been making $5.5 million to Shaw’s entrance salary, with another $20 million guaranteed to Craig for another two seasons of work. The Red Sox would have to wait till 2018 to decide if Craig’s righty bat was worth keeping for another $13 million team option or a buyout worth $1 million. Shaw’s lefty bat has been worth seven homers and 17 RBIs in 36 games for Boston, while Craig’s 25 games with the big club has been worth one homer and two RBIs.

Red Sox Nation had to see John Lackey, a solid starting pitcher who helped Boston win a World Series in 2013, be traded to the team they beat for Craig’s services. Joe Kelly, the starting pitcher who also came with Craig in the deal, has had a much-improved second half of the season, going 6-0 for his last seven starts after posting a record of 2-6 and a 5.94 ERA in the first four months. If Craig can improve his own game to that level of quality, maybe there would be room for him on the roster in 2016.

However, it’s not like Shaw is the only other candidate for first base. Hanley Ramirez, the big-name-but-often-injured slugger, has been well documented as a brutal replacement in left field for the traded Yoenis Cespedes. Boston signed him for four years and $88 million with a vesting option in 2019 that’s worth another $22 million. If the Red Sox can’t, or won’t, move Ramirez to another team, the brass will want to see a return on their investment. As David Ortiz is, once again, playing like a man possessed at the plate as the designated hitter and Ramirez’s days as a shortstop are over, there’s really only one place that he can go and still be in the lineup: first base. Even if you calculate Han-Ram’s rate of RBIs to Craig’s amount of games in the minors, this season, it still comes out as a greater number of 47, and Hanley did that against major league pitchers.

The writing is on the proverbial wall, that Hanley smacked for a shoulder injury, that Craig’s best chance of staying in the majors is with another ball club. When the winter meetings begin, the Red Sox will need Craig to have had a September worth noting to put a deal in place. Nobody wanted Craig’s contract under production numbers so small, hence why he cleared waivers. He’s older and slower than Shaw, and he’s not as productive as Ramirez. So, Craig’s bat better be in as good a spot as he says it is, or else his net worth as an asset will plummet even more, ending not only Craig’s hopes of MLB success but also Boston’s chances of picking up a better player asset in a packaged deal. If the chances are not lost, already.

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