Earlier Tuesday, a lot of the talk was about whether or not the Red Sox ought to go for it and trade for Cliff Lee. Lee, of course, is an ace, a rare breed, but he’s also paid like one, and reports suggested the Phillies were holding out for a wheelbarrow of prospect talent, along with complete contract assumption. People occupied both sides of the conversation, but it didn’t look like a wise idea for the Sox, given how much they’d have to give up for one individual shorter-term interest. The Red Sox really wanted a starter, but they also really wanted to not give up their top-level young talent. It was up to them to find a way.
Later Tuesday, the Red Sox got their good starter. According to reports, the Red Sox and White Sox couldn’t work out a straight-up Jake Peavy trade, but then they got the Tigers involved and a deal was struck. Peavy is off to the other Sox, while the Tigers are up one Jose Iglesias and the White Sox are up one Avisail Garcia. And, of course, there are some other bits. The complete summary:
In short, the Red Sox have a good starter through 2014, and an interesting potential reliever. The Tigers have a Jhonny Peralta replacement, as soon as they need one, be that very soon or next April. The White Sox have prospects, including one who drew nationally-televised comparisons to Miguel Cabrera. Granted, that was based more on background and appearance than talent, but now the Garcia/Cabrera comparison is further cemented in your head.
There’s a lot here to tackle, so we’ll start with the Red Sox. Though they have good overall starting-rotation numbers, they’re currently dealing with a bit of Clay Buchholz uncertainty, as he works his way back from shoulder discomfort. There’s no question the Sox could’ve used a rotation upgrade, and there’s no question this is a better gamble than giving up a lot of money and a lot of talent for Lee. Peavy, clearly, isn’t on Lee’s level, but none of the lost players are on Xander Bogaerts‘ level, and the money’s very different, and Peavy’s still good. Peavy boosts the Red Sox’s short-term chances, without actually costing them very much.
For all the talk about Peavy’s durability, last year he threw 219 innings, and this year he missed time due to an injury that didn’t involve his elbow or shoulder. He’s something of an extreme fly-ball pitcher, meaning there are always going to be dingers, but Peavy survives and thrives by getting strikeouts and limiting walks. According to former and also current teammate Matt Thornton:
“There’s one thing that will drive Jake Peavy nuts and that’s walking someone. He doesn’t care what it is in a situation. He’d rather give up a homer than walk a guy. It’s just the way he’s built.”
Since the start of last season, by park-adjusted FIP and xFIP, Peavy compares well to guys like Derek Holland, Mat Latos, and Jordan Zimmermann. There’s an argument to be made he was the best starter on the market this summer, depending on how available you think Lee really is, and Peavy throws two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. He is, basically, good without being really super great, so while Lee would’ve made the 2013 Red Sox better, Peavy makes them a little less better at a far lower cost that’s better for the organization’s long-term outlook. Also, Villarreal might be something, as he’s demonstrated an ability to make hitters miss. He’s going to the minors and he doesn’t throw quite enough strikes, but he’s young and you never know when a short-inning reliever might get his switch flipped.
The Red Sox gained without losing much. Iglesias has generated a lot of attention, but he’s no future superstar, and the prospects weren’t high on any lists. The Sox will now have to make do with Will Middlebrooks at third base, but maybe he’s improved, or maybe the team makes yet another addition. Even without this move, the picture at third looked pretty mediocre.
We’ll move on now to the Tigers. Villarreal, we’ll skip. This was about exchanging a toolsy young outfielder for a shiny young infielder. When the Tigers think Jose Iglesias, this is what they see in their dreams:
Iglesias is going to leave third base behind and focus again on just being a shortstop. Immediately, he’s the backup to Peralta and the probable starter come 2014. But the expectation is that Peralta’s about to be suspended for Biogenesis stuff, so then Iglesias slides right in as a stopgap. There’s not a single person that has a single question about Iglesias’ shortstop defense. He has the ability to be one of the best defensive shortstops of the generation. All the questions are about Iglesias’ bat.
On the one hand, all right, a .348 wOBA. On the other hand, a .377 BABIP and an .080 ISO. Iglesias doesn’t walk and he doesn’t have power, so his offensive upside is extremely limited. Somewhat famously, he’s slugged .292 in Triple-A. People say he’s made helpful adjustments and what he does do is make a lot of contact, allowing him to pepper the ball and beat out some grounders. The question with Iglesias has been whether he’ll hit enough to remain a regular at short. Given his defense and speed, he only has to clear a low bar, and he’s 23 years old. It looks like Iglesias is a safe gamble, even if his overall upside is somewhat modest. As long as the defense is there, the rest of his game will be gravy.
Finally, there are the White Sox. The key for them is Garcia — he’s the only high-level prospect they received. Garcia has seen a bit of action in the major leagues. Montas and Wendelken have topped out in Single-A, and Rondon’s topped out in Low-A. They’re 20, 20, and 19 years old, but they’re a long ways off, and to be considered extra pieces. Garcia’s the get, and he’s long in ability.
With plenty of questions. Garcia’s a 6-foot-4, 240-pound set of tools that’s likely to play in an outfield corner. Before the year, Marc Hulet called him the fourth-best prospect in the Tigers’ system, and all Garcia’s done since is tear up Triple-A and appear in the bigs. He’s somewhat newly 22. There are fans of his arm and there are fans of his raw power. But Garcia’s swing leads to too many grounders, and his current approach leaves an awful lot to be desired.
This year, Garcia owns the highest BABIP at the Triple-A level. He also owns one of the highest swing rates, and one of the lowest contact rates. In the majors, he’s also been aggressive, and over bits of two years he’s posted a .290 wOBA. He’s too young and the sample’s too small to take that too seriously, but here’s the general message: Garcia’s the kind of prospect people don’t think of when they think of prospects with plate discipline, and while there’ such thing as effective aggressiveness, the burden of proof is on Garcia to demonstrate that he has the right idea.
Odds are, Garcia won’t become a big contributor in the field, and he’s unlikely to add much on the bases or walk very often. So to become a quality player, he’ll need to either up his contact or up his power, and while that’s all very projectable, Garcia has improvements left to make. As such, he’s a higher-risk prospect, as tends to be the case with toolsy guys. The ceiling is that he slugs somewhere around .500-.550. The floor is that he’s not a major leaguer. With a guy like this, there are no guarantees.
The rest of the package? I’ll lean on Ben Badler and Alex Speier, since I’m not a low-level prospect guy. Rondon is a flashy defensive infielder who doesn’t hit enough, and probably never will. In his professional career he’s hit .216. Wendelken is already a reliever, at 20, and he’s posted a below-average strikeout rate in Single-A. Montas might have been the hardest thrower in the Boston system, which automatically gives him a high ceiling, but he’s one of them live young arms without a quality third pitch, and with inconsistent command, so a lot of people think he’s a reliever long-term. Maybe a closing kind of reliever, given the heat, but low-level relief prospects are more or less a dime a dozen. Montas is the second-best piece here, but he’s very far away with an excellent chance of never turning into anything.
The gist? The Red Sox got themselves a good starting pitcher for a year and two months without losing very much of consequence. The Tigers exchanged a questionable young outfielder for a questionable young infielder who should fill an immediate need. The White Sox turned a good starting pitcher into four young players, none of whom seem safe. Obviously, there’s upside, as there always is with guys with tools, but there’s a good chance the White Sox come away essentially empty-handed. This, after selling maybe the best starting pitcher on the market. There are those who weren’t impressed by the Cubs’ return for Matt Garza, but it still looks better than this one, and Peavy isn’t a free agent in a quarter of a year.
Because I’m not a prospect guy, I won’t blast the White Sox. I could be completely wrong. The Red Sox, though? I know enough to know the Red Sox did well for themselves. There’s a right way and a wrong way for a team to go for it. This is the right way.