Daniel Nava’s Turnaround Key To Helping Red Sox’s Struggling Outfield

Daniel NavaThe Boston Red Sox should call the guy who wore Daniel Nava’s jersey for 134 regular-season games last season. He could really help this team.

The Red Sox knew their outfield would look much different this season without Jacoby Ellsbury patrolling center field. But the club surely didn’t envision Nava regressing to the point where he can’t hold down a major league job. As the Red Sox’s outfield continues to offer production well below the league average, a rebound from Nava could be instrumental in turning things around.

Sure, the Red Sox can test the trade waters. In fact, it’s safe to assume they’ve probably been dipping their toes for weeks, perhaps even getting waist level in the absence of Shane Victorino. But given the supply and demand of the current outfield market, there aren’t too many appealing external options. A visit from the 2013 version of Nava is the team’s best bet.

This season has been a disaster for Nava, who was recalled before Monday’s game for his third big league stint of the season. He’s hitting .130 (10-for-77) with a .221 on-base percentage in 22 games with Boston, causing the Red Sox to look the other way in several instances. Even Alex Hassan — a 26-year-old with zero major league experience before this past weekend — has garnered at-bats over Nava.

The Red Sox shouldn’t give up hope. While it would be ill-advised to put all of their eggs in the Nava basket, the Sox are reaching a point of desperation. The outfield, collectively, is hitting .215, and it’s hard to feel good about any one individual at this point.

Grady Sizemore is hitting .225 with a .294 on-base percentage in his first season of professional baseball since 2011. It’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s nowhere near the player who earned three straight All-Star selections with the Cleveland Indians.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been excellent defensively. But offensively, the 24-year-old remains a work in progress, hitting .202 with a .287 on-base percentage and 55 strikeouts in 54 games.

Jonny Gomes, who essentially has been anointed the everyday left fielder, can provide a spark and hit left-handers. But he’s hitting just .171 with a .241 on-base percentage against right-handers, lending further evidence to the notion he’s a valuable platoon player with flaws that prevent him from being an everyday game-changer.

Victorino could help. But there’s no telling when he’ll return.

As far as internal options go, Nava is the guy who could provide the biggest boost. Nava, a switch-hitter capable of also playing first base, was one of the Red Sox’s most valuable pieces last season, as he ranked fifth among American League qualifiers in on-base percentage (.385) and eighth in average (.303) in addition to giving Boston a great deal of flexibility offensively and defensively.

Nava personified the grind-it-out offensive approach that proved so successful amid the Red Sox’s World Series run. Most importantly, he feasted on right-handed pitching, hitting .322, good for seventh in the AL. This year’s Red Sox have struggled mightily against right-handers, and Nava’s rebound could really help the offense, particularly because manager John Farrell would be able to pick his spots more effectively with Gomes and Sizemore.

Is Nava going to suddenly swoop in and save the day for the Red Sox’s sinking outfield? Maybe not. But when you tread water for so long, you’ll latch onto anything before going completely under.