Saturday, July 26, 2014
Despite being in the midst of the worst season in his 13-year career, Jake Peavy proved to be an excellent trade asset for the Boston Red Sox.
On Saturday, Boston sent Peavy to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for minor league pitchers Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, both of whom were in Baseball America’s top 10 preseason ranking of the Giants' prospects.
That's an amazing return for a veteran pitcher who appears to be well into the downside of his once-great career.
Peavy has been struggling for most of the season, and that's reflected in more than just his 1-9 record.
Consider the following:
• The righty's 4.73 ERA is his highest in any season in which he's made at least 20 starts.
• His 1.43 WHIP is the worst of his career.
• He is averaging 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings, his lowest since 2003.
• His 3.3 walks per nine are also his worst rate since 2003.
• His 20 home runs allowed are the most in the American League.
And then there's Peavy's win-loss record, which is not entirely his fault.
Peavy is winless in his last 15 starts — the second-longest such streak in Red Sox history, behind only a 16-game drought that Jim Lonborg suffered in 1969.
However, Peavy has been the victim of poor run support this season; the Sox are averaging just 2.76 runs per game in his starts, the lowest figure for any qualifying starter in the American League.
No matter, the Red Sox got a tremendous return for a pitcher who is clearly having the worst season of his career, and who appears to be in a steady decline.
Furthermore, Peavy is scheduled to be a free agent after this season.
Though the Red Sox won the World Series with Peavy last season, his limited contributions were not a primary reason.
Over 10 starts and 64.2 innings with Boston in 2013, Peavy went 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA. He also managed 45 Ks and 19 walks in those 64.2 innings.
It was a decent performance, but Peavy was hardly a difference-maker, much less a dominating starter.
Since arriving in Boston at the 2013 trade deadline, Peavy has looked like a shadow of the pitcher who won the NL Cy Young Award back in 2007, while also winning the pitching Triple Crown.
The fact that the Red Sox received two upper-level minor league pitchers — one a right-handed reliever, one a left-handed starter — in return for pending free agent is remarkable.
The St. Louis Cardinals expressed an interest in Peavy, but were primarily focused on picking up the remainder of his 2014 salary (approximately $5 million). The Cards didn't seem inclined to give up premium talent for a two-month rental of a fading pitcher.
That the Red Sox were able to extract two top-tier prospects from the Giants is a credit to the negotiating skills of Ben Cherington.
In the end, the two teams agreed to spilt the remaining $5 million on Peavy’s $14.5 million contract as part of the trade.
Peavy was not part of the Red Sox' 2015 plans, so there was no way they were going to extend a $14 million qualifying offer to him after this season.
Furthermore, Peavy wasn't helping the Sox this year. It was time to give Peavy's rotation spot to Brandon Workman and see what the 25-year-old can do over the season's final months. The Sox need to know if they can entrust a rotation spot to him out of spring training next year.
With all of that in mind, it was time to cut bait with Peavy. Yet, the Red Sox used that bait for a tremendous, and rather unexpected, haul.
Hembree was ranked as the Giants’ seventh-best prospect entering the year, and he was described by Baseball America as a potential late-innings arm.
The 25-year-old right-hander has a 3.89 ERA with 10.5 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings in 41 Triple-A relief appearances.
Escobar entered the season ranked No. 2 in the Giants system and No. 56 in the game by Baseball America.
However, the 22-year-old has struggled this season. Escobar is 3-8 with a 5.11 ERA, 7.8 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings in 20 starts for Triple-A Fresno.
Ultimately, the Red Sox got two of the top-10 players in the Giants' system for a two-month rental of Peavy, which is nothing short of stunning. Such an outcome was previously unimaginable.
Kudos to Ben Cherington. He was able to simultaneously plan for the future, while not hurting the team in the present.
Peavy is a great competitor and, by all accounts, a great teammate. He gave the Red Sox everything he had every time he took the mound.
The problem was, that just didn't add up to much anymore.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
With a Deep Pool of Prospects and Lots of Payroll Flexibility, Red Sox Well Positioned to Rebuild for 2015 and Beyond
When the Red Sox made their blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in August of 2012, they shed hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll obligations, as well as three All Star players.
At that moment, the Sox were entering a rebuilding phase and planned on using the immense talent in their farm system as a "bridge" to the future.
The Sox suddenly had ample money to spend as they saw fit. The future looked bright. But building a World Series winner appeared to be a process that would require at least a few years.
So, when the Red Sox instead won the World Series the very next season, they shocked the baseball world. Everything that needed to go right for the team did. Virtually every player performed at the top of his abilities and had a career year.
As amazing and improbable as last year's team was, this year's is just as confounding.
Even after winning three straight games — just their third winning streak at least that long this season — the Sox still find themselves nine games below .500 and 9/12 games out of first place.
The good news is that the Sox have 2 1/2 months to see what a roster full of rookies can do. This will provide time for players such as Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, and Rubby De La Rosa, for example, to adjust to the majors and prove their worth. They'll get over the rookie jitters and get used to the greater amount of travel, press and the higher level of competition.
Boston still has a number of highly valued prospects in the minors, and lots of payroll flexibility for next season. This will make building the next Red Sox World Series contender a fascinating process.
The contracts of Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, David Ross, Craig Breslow, Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller all come off the books after this season.
That leaves the Sox with less than $75 million in payroll obligations next year.
Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are each due $16 million. Shane Victorino will make $13 million, with Dustin Pedroia paid $12.6 million and Clay Buchholz $12.25 million. Edward Mujica is on the books for $4.75 million.
That's a total of just $74.6 million in commitments.
The rest of the roster will include five arbitration-eligible players — Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Nava, Felix Doubront, Mike Carp and Jonathan Herrera — none of whom are due large raises.
Another half-dozen players — Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and, as a result of smart negotiating, John Lackey — will make the minimum salary or slightly more.
Even if the Sox re-sign Lester to a long term deal with an average annual value of $20 million per season, that would still leave the team an enormous amount of flexibility. The luxury tax threshold will remain $189 million in 2015.
So, while the 2014 season appears to be a loss, and perhaps a great disappointment, the Red Sox are well positioned for the years ahead.
By November, if not by the July 31 trade deadline, Ben Cherington and Co, will set about building the next World Champion team.