The Red Sox can go into October now — if all goes well with Clay Buchholz’s health — with a Jon Lester-Buchholz-Jake Peavy top of the rotation. Whether that equals, or at least comes close to, the Rays’ David Price-Matt Moore (provided he’s healthy)-Jeremy Hellickson trio remains to be seen.
But at least the Red Sox are in the conversation.
The Orioles tried to keep pace Wednesday by acquiring Bud Norris from Houston; we’ll see how effective Norris is against the American League East, against which he’s 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA.
The Red Sox did what any big-market team with a chance to win should do — they made a deal to strengthen the starting rotation. Now if there’s a collapse, at least they can say they tried. This reminds one of the trade deadline deal for Tom Seaver with the White Sox for Steve Lyons in 1986.
Seaver, a Hall of Famer, still could pitch when he got to Boston. He made 16 starts, going 5-7 with a 3.80 ERA, but in his final two starts, both losses, something was wrong with his shoulder. After a Sept. 19 start vs. Toronto, Seaver never pitched again.
This time the Red Sox have a much younger ex-White Sox pitcher in Peavy, who brings grit, determination, and playoff experience. In fact, when Peavy meets the Boston media Thursday he’ll likely talk about wanting to get back to the postseason so he finally can pitch well.
Peavy pitched playoff games in 2005 and 2006 for the Padres vs. St. Louis. He was pummeled in both starts, going 0-2 with a 12.10 ERA. But that was a long time ago.
“We came in really wanting mostly to add a starting pitcher if we could,” said general manager Ben Cherington. “We felt like that was the most important thing we could do to protect the team going down the stretch. And we were able to add the guy we wanted. We felt like Peavy was the best fit for us and we were able to get that done. Worked on some other stuff but never really got close on anything else.”
The deal came with a price, Jose Iglesias, who is a major league player now, so the Red Sox didn’t give up any of their prized prospects to get the deal done. Now Xander Bogaerts can remain the shortstop of the future and there’s hope again that Will Middlebrooks will rediscover his game and come up to play third base.
There’s no doubt the Red Sox’ defense got worse with the trade, but they bolstered their starting pitching. Cherington feels that Stephen Drew has done a nice job at shortstop but that there might be some letdown at third base. But the GM thought the gamble was worth it.
Peavy, 32, was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2007 with the Padres when he went 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 223⅓ innings — leading the NL in wins and the majors in strikeouts and ERA.
He was 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14 in 13 starts for the White Sox this season.
A combination of Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves knowing Peavy from Chicago and that Red Sox scout Mark Wasinger was the one who signed Peavy when the righthander was drafted by the Padres in the 15th round in 1999 made this an easy sell.
Nieves often has talked about how Buchholz reminds him of Peavy with the multiple pitches he throws for strikes.
“He’s been a really good pitcher for a long time,” Cherington said. “He’s a competitor. He loves to pitch. He loves baseball. I think he’ll respond to this environment, the fans, and fit pretty seamlessly into the clubhouse. We’ve known him for a long time. The scout who signed him as an amateur works for us, and then up until last year with Juan being over there, we have history with him over a long period of time; although he’s never been a Red Sox we feel like we know him pretty well. Look forward to having him here and watching him pitch this weekend.”
Peavy, 128-97 with a 3.49 ERA in his career — 92-68, 3.29 in the National League, 36-29, 4.00 in the AL — won’t be overwhelmed. He should be very much in lockstep with the rest of the “character” veterans on the Red Sox.
Peavy should be a leader for the staff and he’s under the Red Sox’ control for next season as well, when the team could either keep him or flip him someplace else.
With a veteran, controllable staff, Cherington said that now the Red Sox can be more patient with their young pitchers. Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rossa, Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Ranaudo all can develop at a slower rate.
And if Cherington feels there’s a logjam, he always could deal one of the veteran pitchers this offseason. Lester, for instance, can become a free agent after the 2014 season. He will demand a huge salary when he hits the market.
“We’ve been able to add a very successful major league starter, whether it’s been in the National League, whether it’s been in the American League,” said manager John Farrell. “He’s made a pretty seamless transition to the American League. Pitching in this league for a number of years, a guy that’s extremely competitive. In talking with him late last night, he is ecstatic about joining the Red Sox, looking forward to not only pitching in Fenway Park, for the Red Sox, in this city. I think he’s going to relish the opportunity.
“I think his attitude, his personality, will fit as the vast majority of our clubhouse shares the same approach to the game, and just by hearing him speak, this has a chance to be an outstanding fit.”
The oddity here is that Peavy replaces rookie Workman, who over his last three starts had a 2.45 ERA. Peavy has made two starts since returning from the DL with a broken rib and has a 4.15 ERA in those starts, both wins against two tough teams — Atlanta and Detroit.
With Peavy aboard and with the success of lefty Drake Britton and being able to send Workman to the bullpen, Cherington didn’t feel compelled to make a deal for a reliever. There will be plenty of guys available once the waiver period begins Thursday if Cherington needs to get someone. Also, he has Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon waiting in the minors.
The GM did not acquire a righthanded bat, either. He had conversations with the Phillies about Michael Young, but they were never anything beyond preliminary as the Red Sox seemed concerned about Young’s defense.
If Cherington feels he needs a righthanded bat, the waiver period also will yield one of those, or he always could promote Middlebrooks or Bogaerts.
All in all, in a trade deadline period when there wasn’t a lot of action, the Red Sox were as aggressive as anyone. They acted like a team that was “going for it”, yet they didn’t give away their future.