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Jake Peavy and the Trades the Red Sox Could Have Made

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy

May 30, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy (44) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field. David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knew the Red Sox were up to something. They’ve been at or near the top of the American League all season long and, in what’s been a very inconsistent A.L. this year, the pennant is a realistic possibility. And when the Red Sox are making a push for the playoffs, they are rarely dormant in trading season.

For the second summer in a row, General Manager Ben Cherington pulled off a blockbuster. Heading to Boston is Jake Peavy in a three-team deal with the White Sox and Tigers.

It brings to an end the dance between the White Sox and the rest of the league that Chicago GM Rick Hahn was leading. He was asking for the world in return for his ace, but no one would bite, knowing there was no way Chicago would keep him and that the price would drop as Wednesday’s deadline neared. The Athletics eventually emerged as a dance partner, then came the Diamondbacks. But it was the Red Sox who cut in to seal the deal.

For Boston, it’s not like they are giving up nothing. They might very well be trading the American League Rookie of the Year in shortstop/third baseman Jose Iglesias. He’s hitting .330 this season, thanks to the fact he carried an average over .400 through his first 44 games. He’s still just a .257 career hitter in the minors so that number will go down.

His real value is in his defense. He’s been compared to Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith with the glove. As far as defensive shortstops go, they are the gold standard. And by the time his career is over, he might be mentioned right along with them. The Red Sox will also send three other low-level minor leaguers to Chicago in the deal who project to be relievers and a utility infielder.

From Boston’s point of view, this was just about as good a result as they could have hoped for this trade season. There was no questioning that Cherington wanted to make a big move. But he wasn’t about to sacrifice his franchise’s future to do it.

This was never meant to be the year for the Red Sox. Thanks to the Dodgers, Boston was able to unload a quarter-billion dollars in contracts last August and was given the gift of a roster reset. Thanks to the solid drafting of the last few years, help was on the way in their own system in the not-so-distant future.

Rather than chasing the big names this offseason like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, Cherington went to work building a team of hard-working, high character players who could help reestablish the culture from which the Red Sox had become so unattached. The goal was to field a competitive team and get the franchise back on the right track to get ready for another multi-year run as a World Series contender.

Having the American League’s best record at the All-Star break was never realistically in the cards, especially in what was projected to be the toughest division in baseball. But you don’t get to this point in the season and sit still at the deadline while holding a playoff spot. Not in Boston.

The question was how far Cherington was willing to go to in order to improve the roster. It was clear he wanted to add someone who qualified as more than just a bit player. He had conversations with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro about Cliff Lee. While Amaro was willing to deal him, it wasn’t going to be for anything less than a multi-player package that included Xander Bogaerts, who is Baseball America’s eighth overall prospect. Bogaerts is almost as untouchable as anyone in baseball and was a non-starter in negotiations.

Just last week, the Red Sox were also involved in talks with the Cubs for Matt Garza, ultimately losing out to the Rangers. With former Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer now heading Chicago’s baseball operations department, they know Boston’s system better than anyone and would not have settled for lower-valued pieces. It would have cost something like two high-level pitching prospects and another young position player. That was always going to be a stretch.

Earlier on Tuesday, rumors emerged that Cherington wanted to pry young slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Miami. A player of his age and caliber would require a huge haul, but there were reports that the Red Sox would do whatever it takes to get him to Boston. The Marlins still don’t seem eager to move the 23-year-old star. That doesn’t mean the Sox won’t continue to try though.

Despite being linked to other lesser players like Michael Young and dabbling in the reliever market, there was always the sense that Cherington wanted to make a bold move. He no doubt did that. And, among all of those other options like Lee, Garza, or Stanton, the Peavy deal he did make was the best case scenario. This should be considered a huge win for the Red Sox.

By giving up Iglesias, it does leave the Sox one less player who has been a significant contributor to the major league team. But with Will Middlebrooks and Bogaerts in Triple-A ready for a promotion, there are internal options. Boston could also trade for Young or another infielder to fill that spot.

The biggest part of this trade is that the Red Sox were able to keep all of their top prospects, therefore improving the team now, but not jeopardizing the future at the present’s expense. The early asking price for Peavy was multiple high-level prospects, but, by bring the Tigers into the mix, Iglesias was the biggest sacrifice they’d need to make.With Bogaerts and Deven Marrero in the system, their need to keep Iglesias as a shortstop was not critical.

Iglesias will likely prove to be an important addition for Detroit. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Major League Baseball will issue suspensions to players linked to Biogenesis by the end of the week. Among those players is Tigers’ shortstop Jhonny Peralta. So Iglesias will likely be thrust into a starting role for another team in the playoff chase. The Tigers will probably lose a bit of offense, but the defense surely won’t suffer. He shouldn’t hurt Detroit going forward.

The big piece leaving Detroit is Avisail Garcia, who will now go to Chicago. Baseball America ranked him as the second-best player in the Tigers’ system and labeled him as their prospect with the best outfield arm and the most power. It’s a tough price to pay, but one they would need to if they wanted to protect themselves against Peralta’s impending suspension. They are also shipping hard-throwing reliever Brayan Villarreal to Boston.

So the biggest trade of the year is now in the books. The White Sox got a nice package for their big trade chip, the Tigers covered themselves by not having a gaping hole at shortstop, and the Red Sox bring in a pitcher who will help them compete with the Rays in the A.L. East. What will be very interesting is if the Tigers and Red Sox meet in the postseason, and the players involved in this deal try to send each other home for the winter.

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