Boston, MA - Two days ago, Alex Speier, a sports writer for the Boston Globe newspaper, tweeted that the Red Sox were looking into trades for a right handed hitter. Immediately, speculation grew rampant that Boston was about to make a big splash, but these theories were put to rest when Speier acknowledged that none of Boston’s premier minor league prospects were going to be a part of the deal. It seemed like the Red Sox were aiming to make a move that was similar to their recent free agent signing of Brandon Phillips to the minor leagues in the hopes of having another infielder to round out the roster.
This seems to be just the move they made as Boston traded Santiago Espinal, an infielder in the minor leagues, to the Toronto Blue Jays for Steve Pearce, a veteran right handed hitter who can patrol the outfield and man first base, providing some balance to Boston’s current first baseman, Mitch Moreland, who has greater success against right handed pitchers than he does with the lefties.
Manager Alex Cora praised the move as yet another weapon that the Red Sox can boast as the team continues to mine the major leagues and the free agency wire to bring further depth to their already first place team.
Pearce, aged thirty-five, has bounced around the MLB quite a bit during his career and this most recent stint with the Red Sox means he has played with each of the five teams in the American League East division (Boston, Toronto, the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016, the New York Yankees in 2012, and the Baltimore Orioles for four and a half seasons) at some point in his career. He also was a member of the Houston Astros for one season and he began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pearce is a career .256 hitter with 83 home runs and 268 runs batted in and four of these home runs have come in the midst of his 2018 campaign, during which he his hitting .301, albeit with just 83 at bats. These middling statistics are nothing new for the eleven year veteran, considering he has only managed to play in over one hundred games once in his career back in 2014 with Baltimore. The outfielder has largely been reduced to a utility role throughout his career and with Moreland, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and J.D. Martinez firmly cemented in Boston at each of the potential positions Pearce could manage, it seems more than likely that these duties will continue.
There is no denying, though, that the Red Sox will absolutely appreciate the depth that Pearce gives the team while also making them exponentially more flexible with their options on the baseball diamond. It certainly takes a great deal of strain off of Moreland and it gives them another possible member of the rotation in the outfield if the team needs help, especially against strong left handed pitching.
The Red Sox also received cash considerations in the deal, which is considered to have a great deal of value for the organization. Not only do they expect to get a decent amount of production out of Pearce as opposed to their former option at the position, Hanley Ramirez, for about twenty million dollars cheaper, but they also only had to part with Espinal, a tenth round draft pick whose contract was worth only fifty thousand dollars. Pearce provides tremendous value in this context.
The hitter was thrust immediately into the action last night, as well, when he was slotted in at first base and fourth in Cora’s lineup against the Yankees in the first game of their marquee series. (This series marked the first time the Red Sox and Yankees played each other this late in the season with the two best records in the major leagues for quite some time.) In his first at bat, he ripped a double at Yankee Stadium, finishing the night going two for four with a single, as well. The Red Sox ultimately fell to New York at the hands of C.C. Sabathia in the 8-1 game, but Pearce certainly made his presence felt right out of the gate.
The acquisitions of players like Pearce and Phillips may not seem like the flashiest deals, but they are the necessary pieces of providing depth and a veteran presence to the clubhouse if the Red Sox are planning to make a deep run into the MLB’s postseason, which, considering they have the best record in baseball, would mean that anything less is certainly a disappointment.