On Saturday morning, the San Francisco Giants traded pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree for veteran Red Sox starter Jake Peavy and money to cover some of the remaining value of his contract. Peavy — who’s making $14.5 million this year — has a player option in 2015 at $15 million, but that only triggers if he hits the 400 IP mark over the last two seasons — and he’s still 133 IP shy, so the Giants shouldn’t have to worry about that provision.
But did San Francisco overpay in terms of prospects, given the return? Neither of the two players the Giants traded were by any stretch of the imagination untouchable — they were exactly the kinds of prospects a contending team should be dealing for second-half help in the middle of a tight division race. Escobar and Hembree both began the season in the Giants’ top 10 prospects as ranked by Baseball America (No. 2 and No. 7, respectively); Escobar was ranked No. 56 in BA’s preseason Top 100 of all prospects, while Hembree was not ranked at all. To give you an idea of how much these rankings can change over a few short months: four spots below Escobar on that Top 100 list was Texas’s Joey Gallo. Gallo would end up at No. 4 on BA’s Midseason Top 50, while Escobar would remain off that list.
This has something to do with Escobar having a major down year in the Pacific Coast League. It’s a cause for concern when an organization’s second-best prospect puts up a 5.11 ERA over 111 IP, and 37 walks so far this year (3 BB/9) and shows a command problem that wasn’t present in lower levels. Hembree, on the other hand, is a relief prospect — a decent one, but nothing special. At the end of the day, Escobar’s probably a back-of-the-rotation starter, and Hembree’s probably a middle reliever.
On the flip side, Peavy, 33, is not having a good season. He has thrown 124 innings of 4.72 ERA baseball (83 ERA+), which is solidly below-average production (an interesting aside: Peavy has been a subpar pitcher since coming to the Red Sox, but has reserved most of his good outings for Fenway Park; he pitched to a 3.00 ERA there last season and a 3.59 ERA this year). Repeated injuries have sapped Peavy’s effectiveness, but given a good defense behind him and a pitcher’s park, he should be able to at least hold up the back end of a rotation — which is something the Giants need right now, given that Matt Cain is out for an unspecified amount of time with an elbow injury.
The Giants were unlikely to land David Price even if their package had included top prospect Kyle Crick along with Escobar and Hembree — the top end of the Giants’ system simply can’t compete with what the Cardinals or Dodgers could offer. And with the Red Sox appearing content to hold on to Jon Lester, San Francisco’s options looked to be to either go all-in on Cliff Lee (and hope that he’d remain healthy and effective), or to pursue someone in the next tier down, like the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, the Rockies’ Jorge de la Rosa, and yes, Peavy.
De la Rosa, 33, likely wasn’t an option — the Rockies are in the same division and are apparently asking for the moon and stars from teams that have come calling about him. Colon is 41, has an additional year on his contract for next season, and there’s the normal end-of-season stamina concerns that come with a pitcher like him. Of the lot, Peavy combines reliability and current-year health with a contract that’s not likely to burden the Giants after this season. And with the Red Sox sending money over to help defray the costs of Peavy’s remaining prorated salary for the year, the deal shouldn’t impact the team’s finances in such a way as to stop them from making another move, if one seems necessary.
All in all, it was a good trade for both sides. Peavy’s spot in Boston’s rotation would be best served taking a look at some younger arms to prepare for next season, while the Giants shouldn’t miss the two prospects they gave up in the long run, certainly given that it allows them to transition Yusmeiro Petit back into a relief role where he was far more effective. They’ll also hope that a change of scenery (and a reunion with manager Bruce Bochy) for Peavy will make the deal turn out even better on their end.