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When you have three outfielders on the disabled list and a team in last place, what do you do? Call up lifetime minor leaguer Daniel Nava, of course. The 29-year-old outfielder may be best known for hitting a grand slam on his first major league pitch back in 2010, but Nava is managing to contribute to the Red Sox again today. Furthermore, he is making a legitimate case to be on a major league roster, albeit with a small sample size.
On a team that is labeled overpaid and complacent, it raises a question that isn’t unreasonable–Should the Red Sox make use of more players like Daniel Nava that are fighting to stay in the big leagues?
Before going any further, it is important to realize that Nava has only played in seven games for Boston this year, which is by no means a long time. That being said, his .474 average, .643 OBP, 7 RBIs, and 1 HR are more than what Carl Crawford has had to offer this year. And frankly, a last place team like the Red Sox can make use of productivity wherever they can take it.
Then again, there is a reason Nava has spent almost the entirety of his career in the minors. He hit that grand slam…but that was about it. His extended stay in the majors in 2010 (60 games, 1 HR, 26 RBIs, .242 AVG) is probably a more reasonable expectation going forward. Additionally, Nava is already 29, which means unless he suddenly goes Jose Bautista on us, he has probably reached his ceiling. While it’s nice to see him producing now, the fact of the matter is that he is an AAAA player. For the Red Sox, however, there can always be worse things than having a not completely useless outfielder waiting in Pawtucket in case of an injury.
The Red Sox are in last place, so there really isn’t harm in letting guys like Nava play. And truthfully, small spurts like these are probably all guys like Nava can be depended on. But he gets a chance to showcase his stuff and the Red Sox get production, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. Is Nava a long term answer to the Red Sox’s troubles? No. Is he the answer for the next week or so? Probably. (But someone tell Ben Cherington that because I can already picture him letting Ellsbury walk in free agency and trotting Nava out in centerfield).
What should not be overlooked, however, is that Nava is not the first of his kind on the 2012 edition of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox may not have advertised it (I wonder why?), but heading into 2012, Boston boasted several players who were questionable major leaguers at best. Mike Aviles was a utility man for Kansas City a year ago. Ryan Sweeney…had anyone actually heard of Ryan Sweeney before the Red Sox acquired him? To be perfectly honest, the Red Sox could have cut both of them in the Spring without much fanfare. Now? Aviles and Sweeney are two of the better players on this year’s squad, which is either a pleasant surprise or a telling reason why the Red Sox are in the position they are in, depending on which way you look at it.
Why not take it a step further and look at Will Middlebrooks, who has contributed more in his major league debut than Kevin Youkilis has all season? On a team where comfy veterans are the norm, it doesn’t hurt to remind everyone that no one is irreplaceable.
The Red Sox are in last place and despite their latest winning streak, the expectations for this year have been considerably lowered. They might as well make it entertaining. Whether it be calling up guys like Nava or injecting the team with some youth such as Iglesias or Lavarnaway, the team would at least feature players who actually want to be there. In a worst-case scenario, it may make players think twice before sitting out with sore hamstrings and elbows.
Except John Lackey. Because no one is complaining about him sitting out.