Posted on June 29, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The surprising June trade season continued Thursday night. This time, it was the Boston Red Sox getting in on the action. The Red Sox acquired versatile veteran Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for shortstop prospect Santiago Espinal. The trade comes in time for Pearce to join the team Friday ahead of their weekend series against the New York Yankees.
On the surface, Pearce appears to be a replacement for Hanley Ramirez, with whom the team cut ties last month. The 35-year old is a right-handed hitter who has done most of his damage against left-handed pitchers throughout his career. He could provide a platoon partner for first baseman Mitch Moreland, who has actually handled lefties well this year.
“We’re happy to have Steven join us,” Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said after the trade. “He’s a proven Major League player. Very quality right-handed hitter. Hits left-handed pitching very well. The type of guy we’ve been trying to add to the lineup vs. left-handers.”
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On the season, Pearce is hitting .291 with an OPS of 868. However, he’s had just 79 at-bats with the Blue Jays this season. Part of the reason is that he only returned last week from an oblique injury that kept him out for more than seven weeks. He’s 5 for 13 with a home run since coming off the DL. More importantly, he has a career OPS of .920 against lefties.
“He’s a threat to drive in runs, drive the ball out of the ballpark,” says Dombrowski. A key cog for us against certain left-handed pitching. He can hit right-handers, too, I mean, don’t take that away from him, but that’s going to be the role we were looking for.”
Of course, the biggest difference between Pearce and Ramirez is defensive versatility. Pearce is in no way tethered to first base. He has experience at both corner outfield spots. He’s also seen a little time in his career at both third base and second base. With Moreland holding his own against lefties, Pearce could see time in the outfield against southpaws in place of either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi. Bradley has had a dreadful offensive season, especially against lefties. Benintendi has also struggled against lefties, hitting just .208 this season.
“He’s a good player, and he’s swinging the bat well,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Thursday. “It gives us an option against lefties. He can play first, he can play the outfield, he can DH. He can come off the bench, he’s done it before, and pinch-hit. It’s one more weapon that we have. We got better. We got better tonight.”
At first glance, the addition of Pearce doesn’t seem to move the meter much. But with the Red Sox locked in a tight race with the Yankees, any little improvement could be the difference between winning the AL East and playing in the Wild Card Game. With so many left-handed hitters in their lineup, Pearce also provides a good balance. The Red Sox were obviously in the market for a hitter like him, so adding him now will let them focus on their other needs as the trade deadline approaches.