The Peavy-Iglesias deal: We have a winner

The Peavy-Iglesias deal: We have a winner
October 10, 2013, 10:00 am
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Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he explains why the Red Sox came out on top in the the Peavy-for-Iglesias trade.

Late in the evening on Tuesday July 30, the Red Sox pulled off a deal that brought White Sox starter Jake Peavy to Boston.

When fans woke up the following morning, the deal for Peavy was still in place. Given Boston’s recent trade history -- hello there, Jarome -- that alone made the Peavy-for-Jose Iglesias deal a winner for Sox GM Ben Cherington.

Until Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, when the Red Sox closed out the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, this deal was transformed into yet another Cherington masterstroke. Why? Both Jake Peavy and Iglesias’ successor, Xander Bogaerts, played pivotal roles in the clinching win.

Looking back on the deal, this wasn’t simply a case of a contender trading a prospect for the stretch run. This was a move whose roots were laid in the planning stages of this season and combined equal parts foresight and fortune.

Of all the assets surrendered for Peavy by Theo 2.0, Jose Iglesias was certainly the most significant.

Coming into the season, the scouting report on the mythical Cuban import was the same it has always been: Stellar glove, great arm, more range than Gary Oldman. If he could just hit .250, he’d be an All-Star caliber shortstop. But based on Iglesias’ minor-league numbers at Triple-A, and an unimpressive, albeit brief, stint with the Sox in 2012, it was very much in question if he could manage even that modest level of plate production.

In fact, Cherington and the Sox front office’s confidence in Iglesias was so low, they actually signed J.D. Drew’s brother Stephen to play shortstop to a one-year, $9 million deal. Not only did that display a fundamental lack of confidence in Iglesias as an everyday major-league hitter, it represented a level of organizational desperation akin to Van Halen asking Gary Cherone’s brother Markus to fill in on guitar.

But as luck, and the laws of probability, would have it, a Drew ended up getting hurt and Iglesias got his shot to start. And when Iglesias entered the month of July hitting over .400, it represented either a monumental career breakthrough or one of the greatest statistical outliers since Brady Anderson’s 50-homer season in 1996.

So with Drew already on the roster and minor-league phenomenon Bogaerts ready for callup, a major roster decision loomed for the Sox GM.

As the front office tried to figure out if Iglesias was the next Omar Vizquel or the next Mark Belanger, the Detroit Tigers realized that their starting shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, was likely to be headed for a league-mandated, 50-game P.E.D. time out. The Tigers' misfortune proved to be a timely windfall for Boston.

By choosing to make the still young and promising Iglesias available, Cherington used Detroit’s new need at shortstop to bridge the bargaining gap with Chicago. A three-way deal came together and Jake Peavy-to-Boston became a reality.

The newly acquired Peavy isn’t the same pitcher he was when he won the N.L. Cy Young in 2007. This was clear as he took a regular turn in the Sox rotation. But he was exactly what the Red Sox needed to close out their season: A steady replacement for the achy breaky Clay Buchholz who kept the team on course for its first A.L. East title since 2007.

And Tuesday night, for 5 2/3 profanity-laced innings, Peavy and his Quato-sized dip were nails, keeping the Sox in the game as the offense squandered numerous early opportunities. If Peavy retains the form he showed Tuesday night, in what was his first postseason appearance since 2006, he transforms the already resurgent Red Sox pitching staff into the kind of dominant, four-deep rotation that chews through weary postseason opponents. Two more series' worth of what we witnessed Tuesday could bring another World Series title to Boston and help put up the kind of brick sales that would Amendola groins across Red Sox ownership.

In addition to Peavy, the move left the shortstop position to Drew. Finally healthy, “Uncle Dirt” put up appropriately filthy numbers to close out the season. A rejuvenated Will Middlebrooks resumed his role as starting third baseman -- the Sox had Iglesias playing third with Drew at shortstop for a spell -- and regained some of the form that made him one of the Sox' lone bright spots in 2012. From top to bottom, the Red Sox batting order became a crucible capable of breaking down even elite pitchers.

As for Bogaerts, in limited duty since his August 19 callup we have seen brief glimpses of promise. None were brighter than his two at-bats Tuesday night.

Replacing a struggling Drew, Bogaerts was unfazed by late-inning playoff pressure and displayed plate discipline beyond his 21 years as he drew two crucial late-inning walks that resulted in the tying and insurance runs for Boston.

To cast the deal in an even more favorable light: In just two at-bats, Bogaerts equaled the number of times Jose Iglesias has been on base this entire postseason.

Since leaving Boston, Iglesias put up a semi-respectable slash line of .259/.306/.348 with an OPS of .654. Not great -- not good, in fact -- but more or less acceptable when paired with his defensive skills. Unfortunately for Detroit, the offensively-crippled Iglesias that sent the Red Sox to the Drew family for salvation has reemerged in the playoffs.

In four postseason games, Iglesias has an OBP of .154, an OPS of .237, and the same number of hits as Psy: One.

In time, Iglesias may hit enough to justify his position in the lineup and -- because of his defense -- prove to be a once-in-a-generation shortstop. That would ultimately tip the scales of the deal in the Tigers' favor.

But we'll only know that with the benefit of multiple seasons of hindsight. It was short-term, postseason success that Ben Cherington and the Red Sox were after when they made this trade.

So far it's been another coup for Boston.