The non-waiver trade deadline looms just hours away and contenders busily work the phone lines for any piece to bolster their rosters as they steamroll to October. Yet, until tonight, the moves since the All-Star break looked like bricklaying, not barnburning. A lefty reliever here. A bench bat there. A middle-tier starter way over here. And of course, a Soriano return to New York.
After flirting with Matt Garza and Cliff Lee, the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy, which could be the first major domino in an otherwise quiet trade deadline.
The Red Sox open interest in acquiring a starting pitcher remained a secret to no one up until the trade. Rebounding from a dreadful 2012, the Red Sox surprised many by taking charge of the A.L. East, though the division appeared wide open for the first time in many years due to the rapidly aging Yankees and unknown quantities in Baltimore (could they do it again?), Tampa (they seemed to be a few years away from competing) and Toronto (could all these new pieces work?). The division remains hotly contested, with Tampa recently taking charge, while Boston, Baltimore and New York all sitting above .500.
Perhaps the biggest surprised to Boston’s success rests in their starting rotation. They acquired Ryan Dempster, a workmanlike starter past his prime. They held out hope that Jon Lester would return to from (he hasn’t). They maintained high hopes for Felix Doubront and Clay Bucholz. They figured anything they could get from John Lackey would be lagniappe.
Though not thriving, Dempster’s 100 ERA+ is competent. Doubront continues to progress with a 113 ERA+. Bucholz absolutely met and exceeded expectations, posting a 249 ERA+. Perhaps most surprising is the continued success of John Lackey, who also posted a 113 ERA+. Each of the four strikes out over eight batters an inning. Unfortunately, Bucholz’s lingering shoulder strain throws the rotation into question. They’ve found no competent replacement to pitch every fifth day after experimenting with Alfredo Aceves and Allen Webster. At most, they needed a top-end starter. At least, they needed an insurance policy. In Jake Peavy, they get both.
The case for Peavy is always one of health vs. non-health. When he’s healthy and pitching, he’s good. Period. Perhaps not to his 2007 N.L. Cy Young level of greatness, but a quality top-of-the-rotation starter. That, however, continues to be an issue. Since 2007 he’s thrown 200+ innings only once (last year). He’s made only one All-Star Game since 2007 as well (also last season). He’s experienced a dip in his strikeouts, but also a dip in his free passes. Despite all the injuries and struggles, he’s still maintained a solid ERA+ of 115. Ultimately the question the Red Sox had to answer was, “Is that worth a top prospect or three?”
Peavy should be a quality fit in Boston. He’s a bulldog competitor with a blue-collar type of attitude that should appeal to even the most vigorous of townies. Should his tapering numbers in 2013 be of concern? Perhaps. His fly ball % is at a career high (47.1%), which may prove meddlesome in a hitter’s mecca such as Fenway. That said, U.S. Cellular is a bit of a launching pad in and of itself, and Peavy’s remained competent there in the least. He does sport a 3.68 xFIP would could point to some upcoming positive regression, though. At the very least, Peavy is a capable starter assuming he remains healthy. At most, Boston acquired a good starter that can anchor their rotation not only for the 2013 playoff run but under control in 2014 as well, even if costly.
The Red Sox entered the deadline one of the few teams with both the pocket book and prospect depth to be aggressive acquiring talent. They can easily assume Peavy’s salary and do so without surrendering a major prospect. Instead they surrender Jose Iglesias, who, while young, is a one-dimensional SS that doesn’t factor into the future with Xander Bogaerts waiting in the wings. Iglesias is a logical acquisition for the Tigers, who expect to lose Jhonny Peralta as a result of the Biogenesis investigation. Despite his sound BA thus far, his real asset comes defensively. Reports such as this should make Justin Verlander and co. feel better:
When Iglesias signed with the Red Sox, the NYY scouting report on him even then was: Best hands in baseball since Omar Vizquel.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2013
For the Tigers to acquire Iglesias in the three-team deal, they relinquished top-tier prospect Avisail Garcia. Garcia is considered second only to Nick Castellanos in the Tigers’ system. He’s capable of becoming an impact, everyday RF and at 22-years-old should be considered a real coup for Chicago. To complete the deal Boston chipped in three low-level prospects, pitchers J.B. Wendelken and Francellis Montas and shortstop Cleuluis Rondon. Boston also received back reliever Brayan Villarreal from Detroit.
The deal makes a lot of sense for all three teams. Peavy gives the Boston rotation depth and stability without the cost of surrendering multiple top-tier prospects (as it would have required to acquire Cliff Lee). Iglesias gives the Tigers a solid SS option both for the remainder of 2013 and beyond. For the White Sox, the rebuild begins by acquiring a young, projectable RF that could become a legit 5-tool threat.
Detroit pays the steepest price here, but may consider Garcia expendable due to the presence of Castellanos. As previously mentioned, Iglesias is a chip to surrender for Boston, but the presence of Bogaerts makes him expendable, perhaps even more so than Garcia in Detroit. Chicago wins the deal alone by getting an A-level prospect.
Could more action be on the way?