Hunter Pence

Giants reportedly asked Red Sox about Allen Craig

When Hunter Pence got hit by the pitch that broke a bone in his forearm, thoughts immediately turned toward ways to replace him. After all, the Giants were expected to have a difficult time surpassing 100 home runs on the season with Pence fully healthy. A lineup without Pence brings to mind visions of the team’s offense in 2008.

Some writers suggested Allen Craig. He makes sense in that the Red Sox don’t really need him, the Giants and the Red Sox are working on becoming identical franchises on opposite coasts, and Craig was really good not that long ago (he got MVP votes in 2012 and 2013). He’s also really expensive — he’s guaranteed $26.5 million over the next three seasons, and that’s if whatever team employs him a few years down the road buys him out for $1 million instead of paying him $13 million in 2018, when he’ll be 33.

I made a snarky comment when, in the wake of Pence’s injury, Bob Nightengale said Craig “may be the perfect fit as trade possibility” for the Giants. The guy’s OPS was .594 last year. But the Giants are probably at least curious about the idea.

Peter Gammons knows his Sawx-Giants scuttlebutt — he was one of the first to float the possibility that the Red Sox would end up signing Pablo Sandoval. On the other hand …

Those are probably the same noises Bruce Bochy makes when he thinks about his starting outfield without Pence, especially in light of Angel Pagan’s latest injury (back stiffness). Or, the same noises Larry Baer might make if/when Brian Sabean tries to convince him to extend the budget for a guy like Craig before the season even starts.

However, who’d be all that shocked if it went down like this?

  • Pagan’s back surgery doesn’t take, and he plays fewer than 80 games.
  • Red Sox soften their stance on selling low, and agree to chip in some of Craig’s salary as long as the Giants throw in a pitching prospect or two.
  • Giants scour their system for guys they think will need Tommy John surgery within the next three years and make the trade.

After laughing the idea off early on, I’m starting to wonder if Craig-to-SF is inevitable. Maybe not trading-for-Pence inevitable, trading-for-Peavy inevitable, or even trading-for-McGehee inevitable. It’d probably take some sort of complications with Pence’s fractured arm, or some future injury to Pence or Brandon Belt, for this to take place. Craig is a corner outfielder/first baseman, not a centerfielder. If Belt and Pence are both available, putting Craig in the lineup means moving Nori Aoki to the bench if Pagan is upright, or moving Aoki to center — which would be hilarious, but not exactly optimal if run-prevention is a goal. Then again, the Giants insist on keeping Pagan in center and started Travis Ishikawa in left field for an entire postseason, so maybe they’d take their chances with Aoki.

A “perfect fit” this is not. However, there’s a lot here that screams Giants. Craig is a career .349/.415/.556 hitter with RISP and the Giants respect the hell out of Boston and St. Louis (his former clubs). Also, he’s *only* slated to make $5.5 million this season, so it wouldn’t be an enormous hit to this year’s payroll (he’ll make $20 million in 2016-17, but the Giants will have some flexibility with players including Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson coming off the books after this season).

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