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Peavy deal is a coup for Cherington and the Red Sox

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  July 31, 2013 09:00 AM

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Hooray for steroids.

Turning water into wine is one thing. Parlaying two months of a hot Jose Iglesias into Jake Peavy is a coup for Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington that has rival GMs kicking down chairs and knocking down tables (preferably in a restaurant, in a West End town). And whom do the Red Sox have most to thank for this pitching gift in time for the stretch run? Cheaters.

Not that we’re going to go all mea culpa on Alex Rodriguez and company, but with news coming down this week that the vast majority of players linked to the ongoing Biogenesis scandal would agree to take 50-game suspensions (but, of course, not A-Rod), the Detroit Tigers knew they would be in need of a shortstop after potentially losing Jhonny Peralta. In all, up to a dozen players, including Texas’ Nelson Cruz, are expected to take their lumps, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, which could make for an interesting trade deadline day as teams seek last-minute replacements.

So, in Iglesias, acquired from the Red Sox in a three-team deal with Chicago late Tuesday night, the Tigers get a defensive whiz that aids in Detroit’s sub-par fielding, and a guy who they can hide in the bottom of the lineup thanks to its offensive firepower. It’s a good get for the AL Central-leading Tigers.

But if the deal from a Boston perspective essentially boils down to Iglesias for Peavy, then Cherington just turned the Fenway concession swill into Pliny the Elder.

It’s somewhat fitting that the Red Sox honored the 25th (!) anniversary of the 1988 “Morgan Magic” team prior to Boston’s 8-2 thumping of the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park Tuesday, because I can’t remember a bigger starting pitcher acquisition at the deadline for a Boston team in the race since that team landed Mike Boddicker from the Orioles. Unless Iglesis becomes Ozzie Smith, the price tags are obviously different (couple guys named Schilling and Brady Anderson went to the Orioles), but the caliber of pitcher coming in return is on par. Save me Jeff Suppan. Derek Lowe was a different situation altogether on a sad 1997 team going nowhere.

Boddicker was 6-12 for the putrid Orioles in ’88, with a 3.86 ERA. Baltimore was 32-69 when it traded him to Boston, where the 30-year-old hurler went 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA, and was an integral part of the Red Sox winning the AL East. (His one playoff start vs. Oakland: 2 2/3 innings, eight hits, six runs. Eek.)

Peavy also comes to Boston from a faltering franchise, the Chicago White Sox, who are an almost-similar 40-64. The 32-year-old starter has one-fifth of those wins on his record, with an 8-4 mark and 4.28 ERA. He hasn’t exactly been the same guy he was in San Diego, but he’s made the adjustment to the American League better than a lot of other pitchers, and in 2012 had his best season since winning the Cy Young in 2007 (11-12, 3.37, and a 5.2 (according to Baseball Reference), 5.0 (ESPN), or 4.0 (FanGraphs) WAR had him among the league leaders whichever way you calculate it.

As the fantastic Twitter account for Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) pointed out Wednesday morning, “Peavy has the 10th best strikeout percentage and the 12th lowest walk percentage among the 67 AL starters with 80-plus innings pitched this season.” The only Red Sox starter ahead of Peavy in strikeout percentage is Clay Buchholz, who’s…well, currently just not pitching. As for walks, Peavy has allowed only 17, third in the league behind only David Price (15) and former teammate John Danks (13). John Lackey previously led the way for the Red Sox in that category with 24, while Ryan Dempster’s 56 walks have him third among those who have allowed the most.

Of course, the money was a big reason why the Red Sox landed Peavy, and not say, oh, the scoreboard-staring Tampa Bay Rays. Boston will pick up the $23.5 million left on the deal, which runs through next season, solidifying the Red Sox’ rotation through 2014, Buchholz’ switch to a Bob-opedic dependant.

Unless you were of the thought that Iglesias was on track to be the next Derek Jeter, as one sports radio caller so hopelessly claimed Wednesday morning, how can you not like the deal? Yes, Peavy comes with his flaws, particularly his inability to stay healthy (last year was the first time he’s made 30 starts since ’07, and he has already spent time on the disabled list in 2013), but he was the best pitcher available at a price that Cherington simply could not turn down. No Bogaerts, Websters, De La Rosas, or Renaudos were hurt in the execution of this deal.

But the message was clear to Tampa Bay: This ain’t yours yet.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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