Last night, July 30th, the Red Sox acquired 32-year-old pitcher Jake Peavy in a three way deal with the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. In return, Boston sent Jose Iglesias to Detroit, and three prospects (Frencelis Montas, JB Wendelken, and Cleuluis Rondon: all members of the awesome name All-Star team) to Chicago. Detroit also sent outfield prospect Avisail Garcia to Chicago to wrap up the deal.
After weeks of speculation on whether or not the Sox would go after a starter, sparked by (amongst many things) Clay Buchholz’ injury and Jon Lester’s struggles, the other shoe has dropped. But this is a difficult trade to grade, not just because of the different pieces, but how this trade affects the Sox in their hunt for another ring, as well as 2014. So let’s break it down….
How does Peavy fit?
Depending on who you asked, the Red Sox either had one of the strongest rotations in the American League or they were in huge trouble, should trade every prospect possible for Cliff Lee, and should at the very least re-approach Alfredo Aceves to be a playoff starter. That the Red Sox pitching staff could conjure up such varying opinion speaks to how weirdly uncertain they are. John Lackey and Felix Doubront have been spectacular thus far, but most Sox fans are anxiously waiting for them to plummet back to earth. Jon Lester is finally looking like the ace we expected him to be, but we said those exact words in May. Clay Buchholz can’t find the mound. And we never know for certain which Ryan Dempster we’re going to get on a weekly basis.
So does Peavy right the ship, and add some stability to the rotation? Not exactly. Though his ERA is not a good indication of his actual performance this year, his home run numbers are a bit of a concern, especially coming to Fenway. Add in his injury problems and his absolute lack of success in the playoffs, Peavy isn’t exactly the battle-tested and solid like a rock pitcher that some might have you believe. He is, however, only 6 years removed from being a Cy Young winner and had a great 2012. If he can maintain pace, he would be a valuable starter come playoff time for any team.
Of course, the Red Sox rotation is in a bit of flux at the moment. While it has been astonishing, Brandon Workman’s terrific three starts has complicated things, though that’s not the worst problem to have. He will almost certainly move to the bullpen for the moment (basically solving the Sox’s need for another right-handed reliever), ready to step in should any of the starters falter. But when Buchholz returns, that’s still six starters for five spots, and really only four spots in the playoffs. This should push all of the starters to show their best stuff in the coming months, and will definitely make August/September a lot more exciting than usual. Overall, is Peavy an ace? No, certainly not. But he is a solid pickup by Ben Cherington for his playoff push. Grade: B+
What did they give up?
And now, the sad news. Iggy, that tremendous defensive savant, heir apparent to Omar Vizquel, has left Fenway behind for Detroit. He played with panache every game, took on a position at the major league level that he had never played at (third base), and had tremendous hair.
His journey was downright inspirational. Coming into the season the comments on Iggy was always the same: great defensive player, will never make it in the majors because he can’t hit at all. So what did Iggy do? Hit .450/.476/.550 in April, .423/.448/.538 in May, and .395/.453/.523 in June.
Though he never hit much for power, he was scrappy as all hell, somehow beating out roughly a bajillion infield singles, and countless bloop singles. The glimpses into his relationships with teammates, especially Pedey and Papi, were a marker of how the clubhouse has changed in the last year, and his motivation and discipline were unquestioned. Though he is inarguably in a better position to succeed now, Detroit’s shortstop of the future, he will absolutely be missed.
All that being said, after talks of Jackie Bradley Jr. being the piece going out for Peavy, and days of pondering which of the Red Sox’ cache of high-level pitching prospects would have to go, Iggy and three minor prospects isn’t a huge price to pay for a former ace, especially when taking into consideration how deep Boston’s farm system actually is. Of the three, Francelis Montas will be the one Red Sox fans watch nervously, but overall this was a more than reasonable swap in Boston’s search for a World Series ring this year.
What this means for the future:
This is where things get complicated. Peavy is signed through ’14, and his player option most likely will be void as he must reach 400 IP combined in 2013-14. But that is one more year with a 30-something pitcher taking a spot in the rotation. It would be foolish to think that the Sox will go into next year with those six starters. Dempster, Lackey, and Peavy are all signed through 2014. Only Lester’s contract is up at the end of this season, but there’s no chance in hell that they don’t use their team option on him, if not give him an extension, while his value is so relatively low. That means leaving through trade, hopefully for prospects, as the Sox look to keep fueling their farm. But that’s also another year that Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, or Brandon Workman don’t get their fair shot at a full-season rotation spot. Obviously anything can happen between now and spring training, and luckily pitchers like Matt Barnes and Henry Owens still need at least another season in the minors. Still, Peavy’s presence is just another block in the paths of the plethora of talented Red Sox pitching prospects.
However, Iglesias’ departure is the complete opposite of this conundrum. By dealing away the defensive wizard (and more importantly, by not trading for Michael Young), the Red Sox now have questions in the left side of their infield, and, in the long run, that question is rather exhilarating. This means that top prospect Xander Bogaerts has a much clearer path to the majors, and we can see him making an impact as soon as September. This means that Will Middlebrooks could enter back into the conversation, and possibly find the confidence and control to match his immense power potential. This means that players like Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero are no longer “extra” prospects, their value rising exponentially for the Red Sox. As much as we loved Iggy, he was just keeping the space warm for Bogaerts or the other intriguing infield prospects in the minors. If Cherington and Farrell try to play out the rest of this season with Brandon Snyder/Brock Holt, then this was an opportunity wasted. But by moving Iglesias, the future becomes a little clearer and a lot more intriguing.
Overall: While there are questions for Jake Peavy’s role in the Red Sox in the future, for this season he will be exactly what the Red Sox desired: another potent option for the rotation, and another piece for their playoff run. Peavy isn’t anywhere near the level of Cliff Lee, but for the price that the Sox paid, was a much more reasonable option. While the Sox aren’t the clear winners of the trade (that would be Detroit), this was still, for all intents and purposes a good move. Also, while it creates uncertainty in the short term, dealing Iglesias clears up the logjam at shortstop/3B for the long run. Plus, the Sox didn’t have to give up any of their top prospects. If this is the kind of move that Ben C. continues to make, getting pieces for the present while always remaining protective of the bright future, then the Sox will be in good hands in the years to come. Well done.