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MLB Trades Revisited: Steve Pearce

Steve Pearce of Toronto Blue Jays batting on September 3, 2017

It’s trade deadline season! The 2022 trade deadline has lacked activity with under 48 hours to go, and the Nationals are teasing us about swapping Juan Soto. Since there’s not much news yet, let’s look back a few years to one of the unicorn deals that resulted positively for both parties: the Boston Red Sox’s acquisition of journeyman utility player Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays.

This was not a deadline deal as it occurred in late June 2018. Toronto sent Pearce and cash to Boston for then minor-leaguer Santiago Espinal. Pearce had rebounded nicely from two below-replacement seasons to hit .284/.378/.512 with a 140 OPS+ for Toronto, improving his value as a “rental” player for a team that needed to boost its roster depth. The rebuilding Jays received a versatile minor-league prospect in a deal which did not appear to be very consequential at the time.

Pearce would finish the regular season hitting .279/.394/.507 (141 OPS+), starting in 36 games for the 108-54 Beantown squad. His most significant contributions came in October, winning MVP of the 2018 World Series thanks to an inspired .333/.500/1.167 performance at the plate, clubbing three home runs in a five-game rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pearce’s postseason success garnered a new contract from the Red Sox, but the veteran would post a lackluster .180/.245/.258 batting line and 31 OPS+ after spending most of the year on the injured list. He ultimately retired from baseball in April 2020, amid uncertainty about the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic work stoppage and manager Alex Cora‘s suspension from the Red Sox.

Espinal would not make his debut for Toronto until after Pearce’s retirement in 2020, debuting at third base for a Blue Jays team banished to Buffalo. Following Marcus Semien‘s departure to Texas, Espinal was promoted to starting second baseman, earning his first All-Star selection. The 2022 Jays have not been the world-beaters many fans anticipated but currently own an 86.5% chance of clinching a postseason berth per Baseball Reference, with Espinal contributing 1.7 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs.

Both teams won this trade: Pearce helped carry Boston over the finish line, while Toronto gained a future starter and All-Star.

Featured Image: Steve Pearce of Toronto Blue Jays batting on September 3, 2017, by Keith Allison from Hanover,  MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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