On their way to face the Yankees and lefthander CC Sabathia, the Red Sox have called for reinforcements.
The Red Sox swung a trade on Thursday night, acquiring first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce and cash considerations from the Blue Jays in exchange for minor league infielder Santiago Espinal. Pearce represents the complementary righthanded bat whom the Red Sox had wanted to acquire.
Pearce, 35, owns a career .264/.346/.494 line with 38 homers in 841 career plate appearances against lefties. In 53 plate appearances against southpaws this year, Pearce has a .306/.358/.531 line.
“We’ve been looking for a guy that can hit versus lefthand pitching,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “Even though we’ve done better — in recent times we’ve swung the bat better — we still have talked about trying to add one more guy that we can put in the lineup against a tough lefthander. He’s traditionally hit left-hand pitching very well . . . He’s a threat to drive in runs, hits the ball out of the ballpark, so I think a guy [who can be] a key cog for us versus certain lefthand pitching.”
A longtime resident of the AL East — he’s played for the Orioles, Yankees, Rays, and Jays — Pearce has more at-bats in his career against Sabathia (who starts against the Red Sox on Friday night) than any other pitcher, having gone 9 for 33 with two homers and an .848 OPS against the lefty.
Pearce is primarily expected to be used to complement Mitch Moreland at first base. The Red Sox also would be comfortable using him as either a DH or in left field if they wanted to give either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi a rest on a night they face a lefthanded starter.
“Everybody knows that he hits lefthanded pitching,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s a good player, he’s swinging the bat well. He gives us an option against lefties. He can play first, he can play the outfield, he can DH, he can come off the bench — he’s done it before — and pinch hit. It’s one more weapon that we have. We got better tonight.”
In exchange for Pearce, the Red Sox parted with High A Salem infielder Espinal. Espinal was pulled after leading off for Salem Thursday night, snapping his 15-game hitting streak. The 23-year-old — a 10th-round pick in the 2016 draft — has a .314/.364/.478 line for the season.