The next time Boston Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava is overlooked won’t be the first. Defying the odds has been the theme of Nava’s baseball life.
The Red Sox undoubtedly value Nava’s contributions and it’s entirely possible he could remain with Boston beyond this season in a bench role, garnering playing time against right-handers and perhaps even filling in at first base for Mike Napoli on occasion. But with Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt among the Red Sox’s other outfield options for 2015 and beyond, there’s also a possibility Nava could be moved this offseason, which makes his incredible resurgence even more intriguing.
Nava’s final numbers this season aren’t going to jump off the page, especially when stacked up against his career year in 2013. However, the veteran continues to salvage what started out as a disastrous campaign by thriving whenever he’s penciled into manager John Farrell’s lineup card.
Nava belted a three-run homer and reached base three times in Tuesday’s 9-4 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He’s now hitting .263 with a .340 on-base percentage, which is amazing considering his average and OBP sat at .130 and .221, respectively, on May 29.
For some players, a trip back to Triple-A can serve as a wake-up call. While Nava, a former independent league player with an impeccable work ethic, didn’t need any extra motivation, his time down on the farm earlier this season proved valuable in terms of him making necessary offensive adjustments. Nava’s power has diminished this season — Tuesday’s home run was only his third in 90 games versus 12 in 134 regular-season games in 2013 — but it’s been by design to some extent, as he’s been more apt to take what he’s given since returning to The Show.
Nava is hitting .310 with 20 RBIs, 27 runs scored and 14 extra-base hits in 68 games since his most recent recall from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 4. Entering Tuesday, Nava ranked 10th in the American League in on-base percentage (.374) in that span, offering a clear indication that he’s closer to his 2013 self than the player who sputtered through the first month of the Red Sox’s World Series defense.
Even with the uptick in production, Nava could be a victim of the numbers game. Someone needs to be and some — if not all — of the aforementioned outfield options figure to rank ahead of Nava on the 2015 depth chart at this particular moment. Of course, things could change and others could be dealt, thus opening a spot for Nava, who, again, adds great value and versatility to the Red Sox. But even Nava himself understands the amount of uncertainty surrounding Boston’s outfield plans.
“I don’t know what my place in the future is, but for now I’m getting a chance to play,” Nava told the Boston Herald over the weekend in St. Petersburg. “That’s all I can control. The future, maybe you can ask (management) and they’ll tell you better, but maybe they don’t even know. There’s a lot of things that are going to happen this offseason. I think everyone is realistic about that. Whatever that means, we’ll see.”
Of all the possible outfield combinations the Red Sox could opt for in 2015, Nava’s name is one that seemingly keeps slipping through the cracks, even if his contributions haven’t gone unnoticed internally. Such is the life of a 31-year-old overachiever on a club that boasts up-and-comers, power bats and limitless flexibility amid a crowded situation.
Nevertheless, Nava deserves a tip of the cap for pulling an admirable 180 following a woeful start to the season.