ST. PETERSBURG -- Almost exactly a year after the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox in their push to get to the World Series, they traded the right-hander and cash considerations to the Giants on Saturday for two pitching prospects.
Given how much Boston has struggled this season, general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell have been candid in recent weeks that the club would have to consider 2015 and beyond while evaluating a course of action heading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Edwin Escobar, LHP: Escobar signed with the Rangers as a 16-year old out of Venezuela in 2008, but he pitched just one season for them before the Giants acquired him as a compensation for allowing the Rangers to keep Rule 5 selection Ben Snyder. Escobar pitched well in the Giants system, rising to Triple-A Fresno as a 22-year old this season. He's been met with a bit more resistance in the hitter friendly parks of the Pacific Coast League and posted a 5.11 ERA and struck out 96 batters in 111 innings this season. Escobar has a solid three-pitch mix and he commands his low-90s fastball well. He has also proved to be durable, throwing 370 1/3 innings since the start of 2012.
Heath Hembree, RHP: Hembree's big arm has made him a force out of the bullpen since the Giants drafted him in 2010. He has spent the last few years as the closer for Triple-A Fresno and got a brief look in the big leagues last September. His fastball gets up to 98 mph, but he more typically works in the mid-90s. At its best, his slider is a swing-and-miss offering and helped him average 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings in parts of three seasons with Fresno. He's saved 105 games in the Minor Leagues and has the mindset necessary to pitch late in games at the highest level.
With this deal, the Sox get left-hander Edwin Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree. MLB.com ranks Escobar and Hembree as the second- and 11th-best prospects in the Giants' Minor League system, respectively.
"Yeah, with Jake going to San Francisco, you hate to see a guy of his caliber [leave] and what he's meant since coming over here from the trade a year ago," said Farrell. "It provides Jake an opportunity to step right into a more ready pennant race out in the West, and we get two pitchers back that we like, both in Escobar and Hembree, so that's where we are after the trade today."
The Red Sox called up right-hander Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket, and he'll start in place of Peavy on Sunday.
Peavy, 33, went 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA while allowing an American League-high 20 home runs. However, he also kept the Red Sox in many of the games he started, and had the lowest run support on the team.
"He pitched, I think, clearly better than the win-loss record indicated," said Farrell. "But he was pivotal in our clubhouse, and the competitive fire that he has -- that's infectious in some ways. [He] pitched some big games for us down the stretch last year."
For several weeks, Peavy's name had been bandied about in trade rumors, pretty much all of them involving National League teams.
"It sped up this week. We've had some interest in him going back a couple weeks," said Cherington. "He was a guy we were willing to listen on simply because as we looked at the team, we felt like there was some opportunity and value in giving some innings to one of the younger starters, and we thought that we could be just as competitive as a team in doing that.
"And we knew that there would be enough interest in Jake to possibly get something back that we like and would help us down the road. He was one player on the team that we were willing to talk about earlier, and it just so happened that it came together this week."
With this trade, Peavy reunites with Bruce Bochy, his former manager with the Padres.
Escobar, who's also ranked 77th by MLB.com among the Top 100 Prospects in the game, was 3-8 with a 5.11 ERA in 20 starts this season for Triple-A Fresno. He participated for the World Team in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game recently.
"Escobar is the younger of the two. He's a physical left-handed pitcher with three pitches," said Cherington. "He's risen pretty quickly through their system and performed really well. As a young pitcher in the [Pacific Coast League], he's had a couple bumps in the road this year, but that's not atypical of a young pitcher in the PCL. We like the physicality. We like the fact that he's left-handed, that he's got three pitches. He's got good peripherals this year despite the ERA being a little bit higher.
"He's a guy who can pitch with his fastball, gets misses. We like his chances to be a good Major League pitcher and he probably needs a little bit more time in Triple-A before he is that. So he sort of gets added to our group of young starting-pitching prospects and depth. He'll go to Pawtucket and go into the rotation there."
Hembree, once considered San Francisco's closer of the future, was 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 18 saves for Fresno. He struck out 46 and walked 13 in 39 1/3 innings.
"Hembree is a little bit older, obviously, a little bit further along in his development," Cherington said. "He's had a little bit of Major League experience. He is a reliever. We see him as a reliever, kind of a heavy fastball/sinker, kind of classic reliever look. He's a big physical guy. Again, high strikeout rates throughout his Minor League career, which is something we value -- the ability to miss bats.
"So he'll go to Triple-A initially also, go into the bullpen there. He's a guy that we see competing for a spot in our bullpen at some point in the future."
Entering play on Saturday, the Red Sox trailed the first-place Orioles by 10 1/2 games in the American League East and were seven games behind in the Wild Card standings.
There could be more moves in store for the Red Sox. Even ace Jon Lester could be dangled as he remains unsigned beyond this season.
"I'm worried about [starting] Wednesday," said Lester. "Like I've said before, it's all I can worry about. I can't worry about Trade Deadline or contracts or anything like that. Prepare for that the best I can, and if I'm pitching in this uniform, great. I'll go out there and compete and do the best I can."
Just a year after being excited to welcome Peavy to their clubhouse, the Red Sox were sad to see him go.
"Kind of disappointed," said first baseman Mike Napoli. "He's such a great friend. He fit in so well, it was like he had been here the whole year. We're going to miss him. He's a great competitor and a great teammate. His record doesn't really show the type of pitcher he is. The Giants got a good pitcher."