Daniel Nava: A Possible Solution for the Athletics in Left Field?

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Our own lovely and talented Jason Burke wrote earlier this week about how Allen Craig would be a nice fit in the green and gold. The Red Sox now have an abundance of outfielders, with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley and Craig all on the 40-man roster. Some of those players, like Holt and Craig, can play other positions as well, but that’s still a lot of outfielders. I’d be shocked if they’re all on the opening day roster.

So who’s the odd man out? Craig was horrendous last year after being traded to Boston, but he has a good history of being a productive hitter in St. Louis. The 30-year old had an .803 OPS over parts of five seasons with the Cardinals, but hit just .128 in 94 at bats with the Red Sox.

I don’t think that now is the best time for the Red Sox to move Craig. Even though they have little need for him (he’s probably the sixth best outfielder on their roster) this would be a sell-low move. Craig is better than what he did last year, and Boston should give him the opportunity to prove that before they trade him.

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Right now, the best-case scenario for the Sox in a potential trade is that they find a team willing to pay Craig’s full salary ($25.5 million guaranteed over the next three years) and they get nothing in return. That contract is a bargain if he performs like he did in 2013, but if he is below replacement level again, it’s a ridiculous overpay. The best move for the Red Sox is to give Craig some playing time next year, probably in a part-time role, let him rebuild his value and trade him either at the trade deadline or next offseason.

So if they keep Craig, who else could be on the move? Probably not Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo. Maybe Shane Victorinio, but he would just be a rental. Maybe Brock Holt, but keeping him for his value as a utility player would be smart.

Daniel Nava is the most intriguing name on the list. They have little need for the 31-year old outfielder, who is a productive player, but is by no means a superstar. He slashed a respectable .270/.346/.361 last year in 113 games, and, even though he’s a switch hitter, he especially thrived on left-handed pitching, hitting .293/.372/.397 against lefties last year.

Nava is under team control through 2018, so he’s by no means a rental option, and he should be relatively cheap in arbitration. Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors put together some projections for arbitration salaries, and they have Nava listed at $1.9 million next year.

The Red Sox would probably want one of the A’s young pitchers in return, such as Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman or Jesse Hahn. Even though Boston has a solid pitching staff, their depth beyond that is shaky. It’s in their best interests to get at least one more young pitcher who could fill in either in the bullpen or as a fifth start if/when someone gets injured.

For the A’s, the current plan is for Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry to share the left field duties, but both of those guys are really just fourth outfielders. Nava would be an upgrade over Fuld and could be a solid platoon partner to Gentry. Fuld is a good base stealer and defender, but struggled at the plate in his time in Oakland last year.

Nava was even better defensively than Fuld was last year, as he was worth 1.5 dWAR while Fuld was worth just 0.6. While he’s not nearly as fast as Fuld, having Gentry’s incredible speed off of the bench should make up for that. Also, the A’s other two outfielders, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, have above-average range and are both threats on the basepaths, so acquiring more speed should not be their priority.

The Red Sox have at least one more trade to make, and there’s no way that Beane could spend four months without making another move. What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @mattmcsports27 or comment below!

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