In most years, a move of this caliber wouldn’t even merit a post of its own, but here we are. This winter, just about every major-league-worthy free agent is still sitting by his phone, so what’s passing for news is a broken-down outfielder — who was underwhelming in limited duty in AAA the past two years — getting a minor league contract with an invitation to compete for a bench spot on a team that some people were just reminded even exists. The player is Allen Craig, and the team is the Padres.
I remember Allen Craig as a member of the Cardinals, and if I ever noticed that he went to the Red Sox in a trade for John Lackey, I must have forgot. Seeing the photo above and others like it did nothing to jog my memory, so I’m inclined to believe I missed those mere 65 games he played in a Boston uniform in 2014 and ‘15, which makes sense as I tend to ignore Arena League baseball.
Back in Craig’s days in the National League he had a few good seasons for the Cardinals, even making the All-Star team as a reserve in 2013, the year before he fell off a cliff and smacked every rock on the way down before bursting into flames at the bottom. He was already putting up atrocious numbers in 2014 before being sent to Boston at the deadline, and it got worse from there. He did not adjust to his new league, putting together a .128/ .234/ .191 line in 107 plate appearances in 29 games; the next year he went to the plate 88 times in 36 games, and was sent to Pawtucket after hitting .152/ .239/ .203. He wasn’t much better in AAA that year or the next, resulting in his release last June.
Mainly a third basemen in his first trip through the minors, Craig was primarily a corner outfielder and first baseman by the time he made his major league debut in 2010. Since then his only time at second and third bases has been in the cases of emergencies. If he does make it back to the majors, he’ll have a chance to make his first-ever error in the outfield. He has yet to do so in 1,896 innings; as you might expect, this is more a testament to his limited range than anything else.
A right-handed hitter, Craig’s best case scenario is displacing Matt Szczur, who swings from the same side and has shown the limits of his capabilities in four major league seasons.