Heath Hembree

Giants trade two disappointing prospects to Red Sox for Jake Peavy

Here’s what I wrote after the 14-inning win in Philadelphia: “I have a feeling that, someway somehow, Yusmeiro Petit will not make his next scheduled start (7/27 vs the Dodgers).”

The Giants sent two minor league pitches — Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree — to the Red Sox for Jake Peavy (and cash!) today. Peavy last pitched on July 22, allowing five runs, eight hits, three walks and two homers to the Blue Jays. But that’s not the point. On four days rest, he’ll be ready to make his first start in a Giants uniform tomorrow night on national television, against the Dodgers.

This trade is one of those “duh” moves that we all either saw coming or should’ve predicted; maybe it wasn’t quite as obvious as the Dan Uggla signing, because there were so many ways the Giants could’ve gone in adding a starter, but it was close.

  1. The Giants absolutely need another starter with Matt Cain on the shelf.
  2. Peavy is a free agent after this season, because he won’t pitch the 400 innings necessary in 2013-14 to trigger a $15 million player option in 2015.
  3. Peavy is a favorite of Bruce Bochy’s from their time together in San Diego.
  4. They traded two prospects who had disappointing 2014 seasons.

Let’s explore point No. 4, because despite Peavy’s poor numbers (1-9, 4.72 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, .812 OPS, highest walk rate since 2003), we all know why the Giants would be interested.

The Giants had high hopes for both Escobar and Hembree before Spring Training. Here’s what Sabean said about Escobar in April:

I thought (Escobar would be the team’s sixth starter) going into Spring Training and he really struggled in Spring Training. He’s been a strike-thrower in the past and kind of didn’t show that ability, especially with his fastball … We were expecting to see more in Spring Training and we just didn’t.

After outstanding seasons in Single-A and Double-A in 2012 and 2013, the 22-year-old left-hander had a 5.11 ERA in Fresno. Granted, Pacific Coast League ERAs are often inflated due to where a lot of these teams play. But Escobar’s strikeout rate dipped from 10.2 per nine innings in 2013 to 7.8, while his walk rate jumped from 2.1 to 3.0. Escobar is still young and could have a future, but the Giants were a lot less confident in Escobar in the days leading up to this trade than they were a year ago.

Hembree is three years older than Escobar. After a long period where it seemed almost certain he’d be the team’s future closer, Hembree lost a few miles per hour off his fastball. He was still extremely effective in nine big league outings last year (no runs, 12 strikeouts, four hits and two walks over 7.2 innings), but he never did enough in three seasons at Fresno for the Giants to seriously consider him while the team was still in contention. His strikeout rate with the Grizzlies remained high this season (10.5 over nine innings this season, 10.2 in 2013), but he’s been giving up a hit per inning and 1.1 home runs per nine innings for two seasons now.

So, the Giants probably were fine with making this deal (and getting money back in the process) because the prospects they parted with weren’t on the level of Kyle Crick, Andrew Susac, or perhaps even Adalberto Mejia or Clayton Blackburn. The Giants’ farm system isn’t anything to brag about, but they were able to part with a couple mid-level prospects today for someone who they hope will start pitching better in his return to the National League. If anything else, he moves Petit back to the bullpen, which is good for the Giants because they can’t keep running George Kontos out there for two-plus innings every couple of days.

The part about this trade the Giants won’t want to think about is how much they may have gotten in return for Escobar and/or Hembree a year ago, when both were candidates to make the 2014 Opening Day roster. But that pain will subside a bit if Peavy throws a quality start tomorrow.

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