Anatomy of a trade: Boston plays matchmaker
BOSTON — It was about 3 p.m. Tuesday, 25 hours until the trade deadline, and the Red Sox were stuck.
Weeks of back-and-forth discussion with the White Sox over veteran starter Jake Peavy had reached a standstill. Chicago wanted a package of prospects headlined by at least one of the jewels of the Red Sox’ replenished farm system, but general manager Ben Cherington was steadfast about holding on to his most prized prospects.
Then, in the midst of the Sox vs. Sox staring contest, a light bulb went on.
“You talk to every team at the deadline and you ask, ‘What are you trying to do, blah, blah, blah,’ so we knew Detroit had an interest in adding a shortstop,” Cherington said on Wednesday. “Since that was an area where we had at least maybe a little depth, we let (Tigers general manager) Dave Dombrowski know that it was something we could at least talk about if it made sense.
“We went through a lot of permutations with the White Sox and just hadn’t found a fit yet. But we were able to identify a guy with the Tigers who served as kind of a headliner for the White Sox.”
And so, in the interest of getting what they wanted, the Red Sox played matchmaker.
The Red Sox agreed to trade 23-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias, a dazzling defender whose Rookie of the Year candidacy nevertheless has cooled in proportion to his bat over the past month, to the Tigers in exchange for 22-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia and reliever Brayan Villarreal.
At that point, they flipped Garcia and three lower-level minor leaguers (Single-A right-handers J.B. Wendelken and Francelis Montas and infielder Cleuluis Rondon) to the White Sox for Peavy.
Just like that, the Tigers got a shortstop, the White Sox got a package of prospects fronted by Garcia, and of course, the Red Sox got their starter.
“Any time you make a trade, the hope is that it works for everyone,” Cherington said. “We hope the trade works for all three teams.”
But the trade also was a sign of the times. If shortstop Jhonny Peralta wasn’t linked to the ongoing investigation into the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic and facing a possible suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, the Tigers wouldn’t have been in the market for a shortstop.
The Red Sox didn’t set out to trade Iglesias, but Cherington admitted he wasn’t as much a part of the club’s long-term plan as many of the team’s top prospects, particularly 20-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The Sox are committed to veteran shortstop Stephen Drew for the remainder of the season, and they have another touted shortstop, former first-round pick Deven Marrero, in Single-A.
In Iglesias, the Tigers saw a player who could seamlessly replace Peralta.
“Somebody that has seen him play just sent me a note that said, ‘In all my years in the game, the only two defensive shortstops that I’ve seen that are better are Ozzie (Smith) and (Omar) Vizquel,’” Dombrowski told reporters. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to take place (with Biogenesis), but I think that there’s enough smoke you’ve got to be concerned.”
And the Red Sox? While most observers figured they would focus on bolstering their injury-ravaged bullpen in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Cherington knew all too well after his ill-fated deals for Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan that trading for relievers is often a crapshoot.
The Sox still believe Clay Buchholz will pitch again this season and didn’t have an urgent need for a starter, but one way to bolster the bullpen is by adding depth to the rotation.
One problem: The market for starters wasn’t particularly bountiful, and in most cases, the asking price was astronomical. To wit: Nine days ago, the Cubs sent Matt Garza to the Rangers for a three-player package that included third base prospect Mike Olt and 21-year-old right-hander C.J. Edwards, never mind that Garza will be a free agent at season’s end and amounts to little more than a two-month rental in Texas.
So, Cherington made a calculation: If he was going to sacrifice a long-term asset for a pitcher, he wanted a pitcher who would be under contract beyond this season. That led him to Peavy.
“We went into the deadline feeling like if we could make a move to improve the team and protect our chances to compete and give us every chance to get into October we wanted to do that,” Cherington said in an early Wednesday morning conference call. “We wanted to do it in a way that’s not all about this year, preferably, and we were able to find this deal that fit in that category.”
At 32 and with a history of injuries, Peavy is no longer the dominant ace who won the Cy Young Award in 2007 with the Padres. But he has overcome a fractured rib that Cherington labeled a “freak injury” to go 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA, 76 strikeouts and only 17 walks for the White Sox.
Peavy also is under contract beyond this season. He will make $14.5 million next season and has a $15 player option for 2015 that is contingent upon his health.
A National League scout who has watched Peavy this season classified him as a “good, solid No. 3 (starter)” who would fit well in the Red Sox’ rotation behind Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. And since Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 8 and likely won’t return until at least late August because of inflammation in his right shoulder, Peavy also gives the Sox insurance that rookie right-hander Brandon Workman can’t be counted on to provide, even though Workman has pitched well since being called up three weeks ago.
Oh, and about that bullpen? The Red Sox are committed to Koji Uehara as closer for the rest of the season. And by trading for Peavy, they can move Workman into a relief role, where he will join fellow starter-turned-reliever Drake Britton, set-up man Junichi Tazawa and lefties Craig Breslow and Matt Thornton as a bridge to Uehara.
So, was Cherington ever worried the whole thing wouldn’t come to fruition?
“There’s so much going on this time of year you don’t have time to be too concerned about that,” he said. “There was a lot of back and forth directly with the White Sox, and we knew all along they had other options and he could go somewhere else. There’s a price you’re willing to pay and you have to be willing to let him go somewhere else if we cant get him on a deal we like. You just keep working at it, and ultimately, it just seemed when we were able to get the Tigers in the conversation it allowed all three teams to come away with what they needed.”