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The Sox’ $1 investment in Nava pays off

06.12.10 at 5:28 pm ET
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Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava made his mark in team history by launching a grand slam into the right field bullpen at Fenway Park on the first major league pitch that he saw. It would appear a safe bet that he has now given the Sox more than adequate return on the $1 (to clarify: one dollar) they initially invested in the player.

In 2007, the Sox — at the encouragement of GM Theo Epstein, Assistant to the GM Allard Baird and Assistant Director/Professional Scouting Jared Porter — made a decision that they wanted to scout independent leagues more heavily, believing that there could be overlooked prospects to mine. While the team had signed indy leaguers in the past as minor league filler, Nava was one of the first players whom the team signed as a prospect.

The Sox did not have a scouting report on Nava from his college days at Santa Clara, when he led the Division 1 West Coast Conference in batting average and OBP. But they had seen his statistical profile, and became intrigued by a switch-hitter who was named the MVP of the Golden Baseball League while leading the Chico Outlaws to a championship in 2007  with a line of .371/.425/.625 with above-average defense.

Typically, the Sox inquire about the warts associated with indy leaguers before they sign them — perhaps defensive shortcomings, an inability to hit pitchers on one hand or another, does he have a bad plate approach, etc. — but with Nava, there were no such blemishes. The Sox had never scouted him in person, but based on recommendations of Golden Baseball League officials, Nava appeared a good bet to be an undervalued player, and so the Sox acquired the rights to him, sight unseen, for $1, with the understanding that the team would pay an additional $1,499 if it kept him out of spring training.

The Sox had an area scout look at Nava work out before the start of spring training, and determined it would be worth bringing him to Fort Myers in 2008. There, he played well enough to convince the Sox’ player development decision makers that he deserved a spot with High-A Lancaster of the California League. And so, the Sox paid the $1,499 to the GBL to keep him, while giving Nava a salary of $1,100 per month.

“The rest,” said a team source, “is history.”

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