Steve Pearce has formidably contributed to Boston’s World Series conquest, leaving Blue Jays fans to wonder if giving him up was a mistake…
*Editor’s note- This article was actually written and submitted before Pearce hit a home run in Game 5 and won the World Series MVP, adding to his postseason heroics for the Red Sox.
Before even beginning to analyze the numbers, I’d like to say the following things. First off, I’m a big fan of Steve Pearce. He’s a genuine, kind-hearted, persistent ballplayer who plays the game the right way. The Blue Jays were incredibly lucky to have him and I’m extremely happy to see him have post-season success.
He was proud to play in Toronto and, according to Sportsnet’s Arash Madani, didn’t want to leave Toronto when Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told him he’d be traded to Boston.
Second, the Blue Jays front office made the right deal at the right time. In truth, there’s no way of blaming Ross Atkins and/or Mark Shapiro for this development. With that in mind, let us jovially examine what has quickly become one of the more lopsided trades this team has made:
On June 28, Pearce was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for infield prospect Santiago Espinal. It was later revealed that the Blue Jays sent some additional cash to Boston to offset some of Pearce’s salary and likely to get a more promising prospect in return.
Santiago Espinal, 23, was previously unranked on Boston’s top 30 prospects. Despite this, though, he put up some respectable numbers prior to coming to the Jays. In 65 games before the trade, he slashed .313/.363/.477 with the High-A Salem Red Sox, smashing seven homers, three triples and 15 doubles.
After a brief stint with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays, he was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire, where he slashed a healthy .286/.354/.395 in 42 games, scoring 17 runs and striking out only 22 times in 147 at-bats. He was also listed as the Blue Jays’ #22 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
While the deal seemed puzzling at first, Espinal has shown that he’s worthy of at least some consideration. He was unranked prior to coming to Toronto, so it was reasonable to be skeptical of his value. After seeing him in the organization for some time, it would’ve, before the postseason, been considered a win for the Blue Jays.
Pearce, a seasoned veteran, had slashed a great .291/.349/.519 for the Jays, being productive at the plate. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy, appearing in only 26 games after playing 76 and 92 over the past two seasons. When he was on the field, he was a dependable, solid utilityman with a good platoon bat and decent defence. The trouble was consistency.
After going to the Sox, he continued his solid play, appearing in 50 games and going 38-for-136 (.279) while hitting seven homers and driving in 26. It wasn’t until the playoffs, though, that he really took flight.
The ALCS saw him slash .214/.353/.500 with a home run, a double, and three hits. The World Series has been great for the native of Lakeland, Florida, as he’s smashed yet another homer, driven in five, and added a double and three runs scored to his totals. When it’s all said and done, he’s slashed .257/.336/.447 in the 2018 postseason with two homers, eight RBI, 10 runs and nine hits in 34 at-bats. As surprising as it sounds, Pearce has a legitimate chance to be named World Series MVP.
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While Pearce has undoubtedly been the more valuable asset recently, his term is limited. He’s a free agent after this season and will likely use his stellar postseason play to leverage his way into a better contract. He might stay with the Red Sox, or he might go to whoever is willing to pay the most for his services. His future is a mystery.
Espinal, on the other hand, is under club control for several years. He still has a ton of time to develop, and his young age makes a major league career even more probable. It all depends on how much emphasis should be put on postseason play. If you’re the Boston Red Sox, that value is and should be, virtually unlimited.
Steve Pearce deserves this opportunity, and I’m not for a second denying his grit, effort, or passion for the game of baseball. The Blue Jays front office also shouldn’t be blamed. Pearce had a track record of injuries and wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the way the season played out anyway. They made the right deal at the right time and should be recognized for that.
Pearce, a good guy overall, now has the chance to be a hero. Even though it may be for a division rival, it’s beautiful to see his hard work pay off on baseball’s biggest stage. So maybe I don’t quite want my money back, because seeing him play in the World Series might just be worth it.