Entering Wednesday with a 9-12 record, the Boston Red Sox desperately needed to make a roster move. With Shane Victorino set to return from the disabled list, the Red Sox had a smorgasbord of struggling outfielders, one of which needed to be moved in order to accommodate Victorino and a pitcher needed for a depleted bullpen. Ultimately, due to his struggles and inefficiencies in 2014, Daniel Nava is the odd man out in the Red Sox’ outfield and headed to the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA) on Wednesday.
Despite finishing eighth in the American League with a .303 batting average in 2013, Nava has failed to follow up on his past successes in 2014, looking like a shell of his former self at the plate. In 17 games, Nava is hitting .149 (10 hits in 67 at-bats) with two home runs and three RBIs. Nava’s struggles have greatly reduced his playing time, as Jonny Gomes has gotten starts over Nava in two of the last four games. Since Nava has one option remaining, it made sense that he was the odd-man out in the Red Sox’ outfield.
Although a demotion is demoralizing for most players, Nava could utilize his time in Pawtucket to his advantage. Even though he hasn’t played there since 2012, Nava could thrive off the hitter-friendly competition in the International League and regain his offensive stroke in the process. Like Will Middlebrooks in 2013, Nava can rework his fundamentals during his time with the PawSox and rejoin the Red Sox if he has regained the offensive skills he put on display in 2013.
In addition to the opportunities availed to Nava with the PawSox, the Red Sox’ outfield will become more flexible as Victorino returns from the disabled list. Most likely, Victorino will be in right field, Jackie Bradley Jr. will most likely start in center while Jonny Gomes takes most of the reps in left. Grady Sizemore and Mike Carp can serve as significant contributors off the bench, as their offensive contributions are valuable in smaller doses. Nava, since he was a big contributor in 2013, would have complicated the Red Sox’ outfield algorithm, so his demotion comes in a timely way for a struggling outfield to regain its glory.
Pitching is another factor that will have short-term benefits from the demotion of Nava. Alex Wilson was called up on Wednesday, and his promotion came at the perfect time to serve a bullpen that needs a respite after pitching 20.2 innings over the last five games. Most likely, Wilson will be available to pitch on Wednesday against the New York Yankees, and then he will be optioned down to make room for Victorino when he’s activated off the disabled list. Essentially, the Red Sox’ bullpen needed some relief, and Nava’s demotion helped the Red Sox develop flexibility with their pitching staff as they take on an offensively-laden Yankees lineup.
In essence, Nava’s demotion to Pawtucket helps everyone involved in many different ways. With more flexibility in the outfield and bullpen, as well as Nava having more opportunities to re-tune his swing, the Red Sox will surely benefit from this transaction as they try to push forward beyond a rough start to the 2014 season.