SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants needed a hired gun, and Jake Peavy has always been able to sling it against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So they accelerated talks with the Boston Red Sox and completed a deal Saturday morning to acquire the veteran right-hander for Triple-A right-hander Heath Hembree and left-hander Edwin Escobar. The Red Sox are kicking in some cash to cover a portion of the $6-7 million Peavy will make the remainder of this season, which is why the deal is pending the commissioner’s approval.
The Giants acquired Peavy with the intent to start him Sunday against the Dodgers at AT&T Park in place of fill-in starter Yusmeiro Petit, who had made one appearance in the rotation (five runs in five innings at Philadelphia) since the club placed Matt Cain on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
Cain’s uncertain status compelled the Giants to back-burner their pursuit of a second baseman, right-handed hitting outfielder or reliever. They needed to plug a bigger hole in their rotation.
Peavy, 33, was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts for the Red Sox, and also led the American League with 20 home runs allowed. His 1.43 WHIP is the highest of his career and his 2.17 strikeout/walk ratio is the lowest since he was a 22-year-old rookie in 2003.
[RELATED: Jake Peavy career stats]
But his strikeout rate actually ticked up a bit this season (7.3 per nine innings) and the Giants believe that Peavy’s current stuff will translate better with a return to the National League and a much more forgivable home ballpark.
Peavy is 14-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 25 career starts against the Dodgers, and although most of those numbers were compiled when he was a perennial Cy Young Award candidate with the San Diego Padres, he did fire a three-hit complete game against them last August at Dodger Stadium. Current Dodgers are hitting .177 against Peavy, according to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has long admired Peavy going back to their days together with the Padres and pushed for him at the trade deadline last year before the Red Sox acquired him from the Chicago White Sox.
Peavy was an ideal target because his $15 million option for next season won’t vest and he won’t be a drag on a 2015 payroll that already has $125 million committed without addressing third baseman Pablo Sandoval, an impending free agent, as well as upcoming vacancies at second base, left field, No. 5 starter and closer.
The Giants looked at bigger prizes including David Price, Cole Hamels and Bartolo Colon, but the future salary obligations would have significantly crippled their financial flexibility for next year.
I’m hearing the Giants still plan to make an aggressive push to bring back Sandoval, in particular, and acquiring a pitcher like Price or Hamels would have all but ruled out a return for their popular third baseman.
It’s a bit ironic that Peavy is essentially replacing Cain in the rotation, because it was Peavy who routinely handed Cain 3-2 and 2-1 losses early in his career. Cain said he was motivated to become a better pitcher so he could find a way to come out on top against pitchers like Peavy and Greg Maddux.
The Giants had high hopes for Escobar after the 22-year-old posted a 2.80 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 26 outings for Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond last season, even predicting he could be their first line of defense in the big league rotation. But Escobar’s stuff underwhelmed in the spring and he was 3-8 with a 5.11 ERA with Triple-A Fresno this season.
Hembree, 25, was unscored upon in nine games as a September call-up last season and had a 3.89 ERA with 18 saves while working as Fresno’s closer for a second consecutive season. But he was seen more as a Bobby Howry setup-type pitcher and hadn’t demonstrated enough consistency with his secondary stuff to jump back to the big leagues.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was first to report the Giants and Red Sox were close to a deal; ESPN’s Buster Olney was first to report Escobar and Hembree were involved.