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July 28, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Bochy and Peavy, Back Together

by R.J. Anderson, Jason Parks and Mike Gianella

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Edwin Escobar and RHP Heath Hembree in exchange for RHP Jake Peavy and cash considerations. [7/26]

Edwin Escobar received a lot of heat last season in Double-A, as his stat line had sex appeal and his age in relation to the league made the profile even more attractive. He saw his name shoot up prospect rankings, and some sources even considered the lefty a top 100 prospect in the game. The problem with Escobar then—and a continuing theme this season in Triple-A—is the incongruous relationship between the scouting and the stats, a picture painted two ways depending on your particular choice of brush.

While its true that Escobar is still a relatively young arm (22 years old) and he continues to show the ability to miss minor-league bats, the stuff doesn’t project to the highest level with the same authority; the fastball is solid-average and the velocity receives added benefit because of his arm distinction, as it normally resides in the 89-92 range without much fanfare; the changeup can flash plus but plays average; shows multiple breaking ball looks, but the big curve of his younger development doesn’t pack the same punch and the slider isn’t much of a weapon against righties. The overall profile from a scouting perspective is more back-end starter at best, with the likely outcome playing as a lefty specialist out of the pen, as Escobar is very strong against arm-side competition but gets punished by the other side, giving up 16 bombs in only 71 innings.

Without sharp stuff, location will be paramount for success against better bats, but this is where the profile really suffers because Escobar is more control than command, and the inability to throw quality strikes with his fastball in order to properly setup his off-speed arsenal allows hitters to stay back and wait for his average secondary stuff to arrive. I’m low on Escobar and I don’t see a mid-rotation ceiling like other sources but its still a major league arm, so that perspective is important.

Hembree offers the most impact potential in the deal, but that late-innings relief impact is more setup than closer because of the weaknesses in command and inconsistencies in the stuff. The max effort fastball can show some meat, working anywhere from the low-to-mid/upper 90s, and the slider is a weapon pitch, especially against right-handed sticks. He struggles against lefties and lacks the type of dominating stuff to overpower major league hitters in the zone, so the command will need to step forward in order to develop into a reliable setup option, but that’s the potential. Right now, Hembree could add value to the major league pen, most likely as a middle innings/seventh inning type. —Jason Parks

Fantasy Impact

Allen Webster
Many expected Brandon Workman to get the call for Peavy, but it looks like Webster will get Sunday’s start and has a chance to stick in the rotation. Webster’s ceiling isn’t inspiring for some, but he has pitched well at Triple-A and is fantasy viable down the stretch, particularly in AL-only. This is a developing situation, so hold off on adding Webster until he is officially added to the rotation for more than one start.

Edwin Escobar
Heath Hembree

Escobar is hurt by the park and division switch but perhaps helped by moving to a team with a better short-term opportunity. It is possible that we see Hembree this year in Boston. However, it is unclear how significantly Escobar and Hembree’s value changes with the trade since we haven’t seen Escobar in the majors and have seen less than 10 innings out of Hembree. In dynasty formats, Escobar’s value slips moving out of San Francisco but his stuff his decent enough that it could potentially play anywhere as a back end mixed league option and a mid-level option in AL-only. —Mike Gianella

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of LHP Chris Capuano; designated RHP Chris Leroux for assignment. [7/25]

If you needed a sign the Yankees rotation is in trouble, then how about this: Brian Cashman acquired a starter whom the Rockies deemed expendable. Perhaps that's unfair. Capuano did pitch well early in the year for Boston, and has since flourished during his stint in the minors. Besides, while he's unlikely to reach those heights again, that doesn't mean he's a worse option than Jeff Francis and Chase Whitley. Don't look at the bright side, Yankees fans; it'll make the current situation more grim by comparison. - R.J. Anderson

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Deck McGuire from the Blue Jays in exchange for cash considerations. [7/25]
Designated RHP Jim Johnson for assignment; recalled LHP Evan Scribner from Triple-A Sacramento. [7/24]

Even those who considered Johnson overrated entering the season have to be surprised about how poorly he pitched for Oakland. It was fair to anticipate some slippage from Johnson, who had saved more than 100 games the previous two seasons, but to the extent that all his rate stats worsened? His legacy with the A's doesn't look any better when viewed through anecdotes. He blew a save in his first chance, leading to boos, and allowed four runs without recording an out in his final appearance. Whatever the explanation for Johnson's struggles—lost confidence, never got comfortable, injury, take your pick—you have to figure he'll pitch better with his next team; if only because he can't do much worse.

McGuire, a big feller with average stuff, was the 11th-overall pick in 2010. He reached Double-A in his first professional season, and has spent time there in each season since. At that rate, McGuire ought to make his big-league debut sometime in late 2017. More likely is that he sneaks into the majors in September, perhaps as a spot-starter or reliever after the A's have clinched a division title. - R.J. Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Jake Peavy and cash considerations in exchange for LHP Edwin Escobar and RHP Heath Hembree. [7/26]

Whether Brian Sabean, whose Giants entered Sunday a half game behind the Dodgers, would make a deadline move never seemed in doubt. Not after the Giants fumbled their division lead in June, and certainly not after elbow inflammation forced Matt Cain to the disabled list. Still, Peavy's acquisition qualifies as a surprise, albeit one that becomes more sensible by the minute. Sabean lacked the young talent necessary to land Jon Lester or David Price, so he had no choice but to turn to the next best thing. Peavy's claim to that title is debatable, though Sabean later indicated there aren't many players on the table; all but suggesting this was the best he could do with what he had.

True or otherwise, Peavy is a gamble in numerous ways, beginning with his thick medical file and ending with his thin share of success this season. Sabean is banking not only on him staying healthy, but rediscovering himself under Bruce Bochy. That Boston is eating all of Peavy's salary save for $2 million abates some, thought not all, of the risk.

There is some good news here, believe it or not. While Peavy might be Cain's spiritual successor, he's the physical successor of Yusmeiro Petit, who struggled in six starts. The changes in ballpark and division should help Peavy—after all, few things are a better remedy for a bloated ERA than a game against the Padres—but the extent of his rebirth depends on his ability to limit home runs. If Peavy—complete with a deep arsenal and bulldog nature—can avoid the long ball, then he should flourish at the back of San Francisco's rotation. The likelihood of that is limited, yet given the cost, you can't ding Sabean for trying. - R.J. Anderson

Fantasy impact

Jake Peavy

Peavy has been so bad in 2014 that he has been a borderline own even in AL-only leagues. However, he has not been completely worthless because of the strikeouts and now moves to a much better situation in San Francisco. The park definitely helps, although keep in mind that Peavy’s ERA at Fenway this season (3.59) is far better than it is on the road (5.87). Nevertheless, moving out of the AL East to the NL West and getting to pitch in San Francisco gives Peavy an automatic bump. He is a must own in NL-only and worth streaming in deeper mixed formats for his home starts.

Matt Cain

There is no breaking news concerning Cain’s elbow inflammation, but if the Giants are concerned enough to acquire a starting pitcher it is a sign that Cain’s indefinite timetable might be on the longer side rather than the shorter one. If Cain does return in 2014, look for Ryan Vogelsong and not Peavy to head to the bullpen.

Yusmerio Petit

Petit was already nothing more than a streaming option in NL-only but is droppable now in formats with either shallow reserve lists or leagues where you cannot reserve active pitchers. —Mike Gianella

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed C-L A.J. Pierzynski; designated C-L George Kottaras for assignment. [7/26]

With Yadier Molina sidelined through August, the Cardinals needed help behind the plate. It took a week, but John Mozeliak found a veteran stopgap in Pierzynski. Though no Molina behind the plate, Pierzynski should be an offensive upgrade over Tony Cruz, who had taken over starting duties. To wit, Pierzynski's True Average during a down season (.227) is higher than Cruz's career mark (.211). Much will be made about Pierzynski's attitude one way or the other—if the Cardinals win with him, it's because he provided an edge; if they lose with him, it's because he provided a distraction—however, he only needs to be tolerable for a few weeks before Molina returns. Even the Red Sox stomached that. - R.J. Anderson


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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