After one of baseball's best outfields helped the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series, Boston's 2014 outfield has been pretty much the complete opposite. As a unit, they are 25th in fWAR and 28th in OPS. In short, they've been terrible. Shane Victorino missed some time to start the year, and hasn't really gotten into a groove yet. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s defense has lived up to the hype, but he looks to still be a major work in progress with the bat. The Grady Sizemore experiment has been a complete failure at this point, as he continues to look like a guy who hasn't played in three years. Mike Carp hasn't really gotten a ton of playing time, and hasn't been all that great when he's gotten in there.
The one positive in the outfield so far has been Jonny Gomes, who continues to mash when he's allowed to hit, mostly against lefties. Now, it's time for the Red Sox to bring back his other half. Daniel Nava formed a great platoon with Gomes a year ago, and they need to give them another go as soon as possible.
Daniel Nava did start the year on the roster, and struggled mightily out of the gate. In 75 trips to the plate, he hit .149/.240/.269 and just generally looked lost at the dish. He was walking less than he ever had while striking out more often. When Victorino came back from the disabled list, Nava was unfortunate enough to have a minor-league option remaining, and he was sent down despite the fact that he was coming off a great 2013. It made sense at the time, though, because Sizemore clearly wasn't suited to play anything other than left field on a regular basis, and this was the only way to preserve their depth while also keeping Bradley in Boston. The Red Sox are now five games under .500, and they're falling fast. Stephen Drew will be a help, but they need more of a spark, and something more immediate. Depth isn't as important anymore, not when all the pieces are struggling at the same time.
The fact is that Nava is a better option than anyone currently on their major-league roster. As many beat writers have pointed out over the past week or so, the Red Sox have had major problems against right-handed pitching. It's no coincidence that the left-handed half of last season's ultra-productive left field platoon is also missing from the lineup. Against righties, Boston's left fielders have hit .241/.318/.375, giving them the 11th worst OPS in this category. Nava is coming off a season in which he hit .322/.411/.484 against righties, and has a career .284/.383/.437 line against them. It's clear that he is a better option right now than Sizemore, who by the way is batting .239/.306/.352 against right-handed pitching after almost two months of trying to get things going.
At this point, the question is more about how you make room for Nava on the roster. It seems like a complete no-brainer than he needs to be back. The first option would be to designate Mike Carp for assignment. While he served an admirable role last year and getting him was a great move by Ben Cherington, he also has less of a spot on this team than any of the other outfielders. Though he hasn't missed any time with injuries, he still only has 57 plate appearances, 18 less than Nava. There are just too many players in front of him. He's a natural first baseman, but Mike Napoli is going to be in the lineup whenever he's able to play. Even though Gomes struggles against righties, he still seems to be in front of Carp on the left field depth chart whenever Sizemore can't play there. Having his bat off the bench would be great, but at this point, he's an unnecessary bench bat who may be blocking a vastly superior option.
The other option would be putting the Grady Sizemore project out of its misery. This is the idea that seems to be gaining steam, given the former Indians star's current struggles. As I said above, he is looking entirely too much like a guy who hasn't played in three years. Coming back after that much time off always had a small chance of working out well, and it's turning into the worst-case scenario quickly. While Sizemore has much more versatility in the outfield, Carp inspires a hell of a lot more confidence with the bat. If they need a pinch hitter late in the game with a righty on the mound, I think everyone would rather see Carp up there than Sizemore. After the hype train that came with his spring training, and just the general promise his former skillet brings, eventually there comes a time to admit signing him was a failure and cut ties.
Personally, I keep going back and forth between which one I'd rather see designated for assignment. I could see another team claiming either one, so going through with it with either guy would essentially be losing them forever. At the moment, I'm leaning towards Sizemore. His offense just doesn't look like it'll turn around, and he's not good enough defensively or on the base paths anymore to cancel out his offensive deficiencies compared to Carp. Either way, that's not what is important to me. I could see the merits of keeping either guy. What's important right now is doing everything they can to right the ship for this season. They started that with signing Stephen Drew. The next step is bringing back Daniel Nava, no matter who has to be lost to do so.