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Trade Retrospective: Red Sox trade Jake Peavy to the Giants

The Giants did well to acquire Peavy without parting with their best prospects.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

For the fifth straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here.

Shortly before the 2014 trade deadline, the Red Sox decided to trade Jake Peavy to San Francisco only a year after acquiring him. To complete the trade, the Giants sent Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar to Boston.

In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties.

The Deal

In 2014, the Red Sox’ follow-up season to their World Series run was not exactly going according to plan. They were in last place in the AL East with a 47-56 record, 10.5 games out of first, and 7.5 games out of the last Wild Card slot. Their season was effectively over, so it was time to start planning for 2015.

Peavy was in a contract year on a team going nowhere. He also was not performing very well, as the 33-year-old had been approximately a replacement level player at that point in the season with a 4.86 RA9. His poor strikeout rates that started when he arrived in Boston the previous year were not much better either, and he had become very homer prone in hitter-friendly Fenway Park.

The Giants were in much better shape than the Red Sox. They were in first place in the NL West, albeit by only one game over the rival Dodgers. They were in good position to at least grab a Wild Card slot should they lose the division, but obviously were shooting for a division pennant.

Their rotation was quite good, especially with vintage Madison Bumgarner leading it, but they needed some help on the back end. Matt Cain and Yusmeiro Petit were just not getting it done, and one had to wonder how long Tim Lincecum could keep over-performing.

Although Peavy had not been doing great himself, he was a positive regression candidate who could be a good fit in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. He had the potential to be a one-win up grade, possibly two, and that could make all the difference in the world in such a tight division race.

A much needed boost in the rotation cost the Giants only a reliever in Hembree, and a left-handed pitching prospect who projected to be, at most, a back end starter. Escobar, who happens to be the cousin of Alcides Escobar, was struggling badly against right-handed hitters in the minors, and he was in real danger of becoming nothing more than a lefty specialist.

Despite the fact that Peavy was just a rental, this was a light return for the Red Sox. I would have held out for Kyle Crick. However, trades are not always about each team’s needs. Leverage matters, and I am guessing that the Giants knew that the Red Sox wanted to move Peavy more than they themselves wanted to acquire him. I am sure the Cardinals were kicking themselves, because they could have topped this return.

The Results

The Giants enjoyed their last season of ‘Even-Year BS’, by winning the World Series for the third time in five seasons. Ironically, they ended up losing the division by six games. The playoffs are a crapshoot.

Peavy was nothing short of outstanding for the Giants. He surpassed all expectations and posted a 2.75 RA9 and 2.0 WAR in just 12 starts, despite the fact that he still could not strikeout 19 percent of batters that he faced. Unfortunately, he struggled again in the playoffs with a 6.19 RA9 over four starts. Thankfully, the Giants succeeded anyway. I’ll borrow the rest of his story from last year’s retrospective:

“The Giants decided to re-sign him on a two-year, $24 million deal. He continued to be a decent back end starter in 2015, but lost it completely in his final season with a 5.76 RA9. There were extenuating circumstances to that, though, as Peavy was dealing with the fallout involving his financial adviser losing $15 million to $20 million of his money in a Ponzi-like scheme.”

It is rare to see a mediocre reliever last long with a single team, but Hembree is still with the Red Sox. As mentioned, he has been a decent reliever for the team with a career 4.25 RA9 and 24.2 K% with them. He still has another two seasons to go before free agency.

The Red Sox called up Escobar for a cup of coffee in late August, making only two appearances in relief, and giving up a total of one run in two innings while striking out two. That ended up being the extent of his major league career with the Red Sox. He spent all of 2015 in the minors where he struggled, leading to him getting designated for assignment in April 2016.

The Diamondbacks picked him up and had him make his first major league start on May 30th. It went poorly. Escobar gave up eight runs in just 3 13 IP. He made 24 more appearances that season, only one of which was a start. Unfortunately, he was a disaster, with a 7.99 RA9 and -0.7 WAR in only 23 23 IP, and his peripherals were not much better. He has not appeared in the majors since. Escobar has spent the past three seasons playing in Japan, and is expected to continue doing so this year.

Boston Red Sox

Remaining Control WAR
Remaining Control WAR
Heath Hembree 6 2.1
Edwin Escobar 6 0
Total 12 2.1
Baseball Reference

I think it is fair to say that Hembree has been what was expected, but Escobar was a bust. The Sox really needed him to work out as a starter, even if he was just a barely passable fifth starter. Kyle Crick has not been great, but he has turned out better than Escobar.

We’ll forgo a table for Peavy and just reiterate that he was worth 2.0 WAR in less than half a season for the Giants. That would still be a great result even had the Giants parted with more talent to get him. The Red Sox got a light return by both process and results, but everything worked out splendidly for the Giants.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.