The Boston Red Sox will see what Allen Craig has for 2016. If it isn’t much, will it at least be enough for another team?
Sean McAdam of Comcast Sportsnet reported from Fort Myers, Florida that it’s “easy to forget that Craig is still part of the Red Sox organization” when the focus is put on veteran Hanley Ramirez and young Travis Shaw during infield drills. Why would there be any focus on Craig, when “he is here now only because he was given an invite to spring training, having been outrighted off the 40-man roster last fall”?
Craig was optimistic, however, about his chances: “I got hurt and that was pretty frustrating. It’s kind of been a battle ever since. I look at how fast things have gone [in the wrong direction] and I know that things can turn around that quickly because I know that I’ve accomplished a lot in this game. […] I know that’s still in there. It’s just a matter of playing the game and getting at-bats.”
Well, what’s he supposed to say? I give up. Stop paying me millions of dollars to play baseball. That’s not going to happen. The reality, however, is that this spring training may be the most important time in his short career.
With the log jam in full effect again this season, the outfield might as well be a dream for Craig. Sure he could get the occasional start there if his bat turned around, but the probability of any of the outfielders having to make way for him are very slight. And, it’s not like David Ortiz is retiring today, so Craig can kiss the designated hitter role goodbye for now. His only chance, his only prayer, to make the big club roster full-time would be at first base.
Full-time, itself, seems pretty unlikely, given the talent already on the roster. The only solution for Craig would be to make his bat so hot that nobody would want to take it out of the lineup. That idea seems like more than just a mountain to climb for Craig, judging by the last few years.
After being an All-Star in 2013, injuries and a .237 batting average in 2014 made the St. Louis Cardinals question whether Craig would be an elite player again. Hence why he was put in a package with starting pitcher Joe Kelly and sent to Boston for veteran pitcher John Lackey. The Cardinals reaped the rewards from the trade with Lackey stabilizing their rotation, while Kelly and Craig found themselves struggling. In 2015, both men were sent to the minors to discover what was left of their promising careers.
While Kelly then went 8-0 to finish the year, Craig continued to dwindle in Triple-A. He played only 36 games with the big club and hit a slash line of .152/.239/.203 with one home run and three RBIs. In Pawtucket, he hit .274/..368/.350 with four homers and 30 RBIs. That’s pretty good, but when Ramirez has the potential to knock in home runs like it’s going out of style and Shaw backing him up at first base with a .270 batting average against MLB pitchers, not minor-league stuff, it’s not looking so great anymore for Craig.
Even if Ramirez was to falter again, like he did in 2015, Shaw or even Brock Holt would be there to pick up the pieces. Craig would be left on the bench to watch. a waste of an asset.
Craig still has $20 million of guaranteed money coming his way, so nobody can feel too sorry for him. His destiny lies in his own hands; if he wants another chance to play full-time MLB baseball, he needs to resuscitate life back into his bat at the MLB level. If he can’t, not only do the Red Sox still have to pay for him, but other teams may not want to trade for him, either. Craig may find himself looking for another job without any offers if he doesn’t show the potential that he once had in 2013.