Nick Punto

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

Nick Punto tells Diamondbacks he’s sitting out the season


Nick Punto, who signed a minor-league deal with the Diamondbacks in January, has decided to sit out the season according to Jody Jackson of FOX Sports Arizona. He hasn’t officially retired, but at age 37 and considering he was already looking like a fairly marginal big leaguer the odds would be stacked against Punto playing again.

Punto signed a two-year deal with the A’s last offseason and hit .207 with two homers and a .589 OPS in 73 games as a utility man, at which point Oakland released him and ate the remaining $2.75 million on his contract.

A speedy, slick-fielding, light-hitting infielder, Punto played parts of 14 seasons in the majors and earned nearly $25 million despite topping a .700 OPS just three times. His best year came in 2006 for the Twins, when he took over as the starting third baseman and hit .290 with a .352 on-base percentage in 135 games.

If he’s indeed finished, Punto retires as MLB’s all-time leader in head-first slides into first base and exaggerated claps after head-first slides into first base.

Diamondbacks sign Nick Punto

Nick Punto

Released by the A’s last month, veteran utility infielder Nick Punto has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that it includes an invitation to spring training.

Oakland cut Punto despite owing him $2.75 million for 2015, which was odd considering he had a pretty typical season in 2014 and the A’s deemed him worthy of a two-year deal last offseason.

He figures to be a part-timer in Arizona, backing up all over the infield at age 37, although the Diamondbacks already have a similar player in Cliff Pennington to fill that role (barring, say, an Aaron Hill trade).

A’s release Nick Punto, eat $2.75 million

Nick Punto

Last offseason the A’s signed career-long utility infielder Nick Punto to a two-year, $5.5 million contract at age 36. He went on to play more or less exactly like you’d expect him to play, posting a .589 OPS in a part-time role, yet today the A’s released him.

Oakland needed the 40-man roster space, but in letting Punto go they’ll eat $2.75 million. He figures to latch on somewhere as a minimum-salaried bench player and it’s unclear why the A’s ever needed to give him a multi-year commitment in the first place.

A’s option for Nick Punto vests at $2.75 million

Nick Punto

As part of a one-year, $3 million contract Nick Punto also got an option for 2015 that vested based on his days spent on the active roster. Punto told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he reached the magic number, so he’s now signed for $2.75 million.

Punto hit just .207 with two homers and a .589 OPS in 73 games for his worst production since 2007. He’ll turn 37 years old in November, so expect limited playing time again next season.

The incredible awfulness that was Allen Craig’s 2014 season

Allen Craig

.215-8-46 in 461 at-bats.

It looks like the batting line of a defensive-minded shortstop. That’s certainly what it has been through the history of baseball. But that’s what noted first baseman-right fielder Allen Craig did for the Cardinals and Red Sox this year.

Craig received MVP votes for the Cardinals in 2012 and ’13, making his first All-Star team in the latter season. He opened 2014 as a 29-year-old with a career .306/.358/.492 line and a reputation as one of the game’s top clutch hitters. However, he was also coming off a foot injury that cost him most of September and limited him during the Cardinals’ postseason run in 2013. The Cards made the choice to move him back to right field anyway, making room for Matt Adams at first base.

Craig went on to start 2014 cold, but not disastrously so. He hit .220/.277/.367 with three homers in April and then improved to .291/.354/.427 with three homers in May, suggesting that he was returning to form. It didn’t materialize. Craig hit .255 in June, but without a single homer and just four walks in 112 plate appearances. After he hit .122 as a part-time player in July, the Cards shipped him to the Red Sox in the John Lackey trade. Things got even worse. Craig soon went back on the DL with more foot problems. Upon returning, he hit .128/.234/.191 in 94 at-bats for the Red Sox. He played in 29 games for the Red Sox and had exactly one hit for an RBI; it was a two-run homer off the Jays’ Sergio Santos, who was immediately designated for assignment after the game and was never heard from again.

The end result was that Craig hit .215/.279/.315 with eight homers and 46 RBI in 461 at-bats.

In so doing, Craig became the fifth player since 1990 to finish a season with at least 450 at-bats and a batting average under .220, fewer than 10 homers and fewer than 50 RBI:

Alfredo Griffin (1990 Dodgers): .210-1-35 in 461 AB
Cristian Guzman (2005 Nationals): .219-4-31 in 456 AB
Nick Punto (2007 Twins): .210-1-25 in 472 AB
Darwin Barney (2013 Cubs): .208-7-41 in 501 AB

Yes, middle infielders the lot of them. Going back through history, such seasons have mostly come from shortstops. Ozzie Smith had one. Mark Belanger had two, as did Hal Lanier and Leo Durocher. Zoilo Versailes did it in 1967, two years after winning AL MVP.

The last outfielder to do it was Gary Pettis in 1980. A speedster always in the lineup for his glove, he hit .210-3-36 as the Tigers’ center fielder in 1988. No first baseman or corner outfielder had turned in such a season since Joe Kuhel of the White Sox in 1943. He hit .213-5-46 as an everyday first baseman. The only other two first basemen or corner outfielders to have such seasons since 1901 were Charlie Carr and George Barclay, both in 1904.

That’s how bad Craig’s season was. And now the Red Sox, who are on the hook for $26.5 million to Craig over the next three years, have to hope for a bounce back. It might happen, but there’s no good reason to pencil him in as a starting outfielder right now.