Three times drafted, seven teams — one of them thrice (Baltimore) — and 14 years after starting his pro career, veteran Steve Pearce is not only a World Series champion, but World Series MVP.
The veteran has never truly defined utility man, or been confined to platooning against left-handed pitching, but has played every fielding position besides shortstop and centerfield in his 12-year career, and became the Boston Red Sox’s choice weapon against lefty hurlers in 2018.
Pearce has bounced around many a times, making the free agent journey around the league —and to all AL East teams— and has been traded twice. First, in 2016, when Baltimore desired his services a third time and dealt young catcher Jonah Heim (himself traded again, more on him here) to acquire Pearce.
Of course, the one that will be remembered is his move from Toronto to the Red Sox this past season.
Boston desired another bat and versatile glove to round out their roster, surely not expecting receive a future World Series MVP. If Dave Dombrowski actually foresaw this kind of epic, historical production, well then he’s a liar liar.
The prospect he gave up to get Pearce is the young Santiago Espinal. Espinal, who turns 24 next month, was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Florida where he became MLB Draft eligible.
Selected in the 10th round in 2016 out of Miami Dade College, Espinal has moved quickly through the Minor League Baseball circuit and was traded amidst a breakout campaign this season.
A middle infielder with a lot of speed and a propensity to take walks, he hit .280 with 20 stolen bases and four triples in 2017 for Low-A Greenville. He spent the entire season there and was bumped to High-A Salem for 2018.
There, he hit .313 and also clubbed seven homers in 65 games after hitting four the prior year in 124 games. Additionally, the righty posted 15 doubles, 32 RBI, nine stolen bases and totaled 80 hits. He also added third base to his cabinet of defensive versatility, further expanding both his profile and value.
That value caught the eye of the rebuilding Blue Jays front office, who acquired him on June 28. He continued at High-A in his new organization, but was soon promoted to Double-A New Hampshire.
For the Fisher Cats, he split his 42 games there almost evenly on the defensive side of the ball. He played second base 16 times, third base and shortstop 12 times apiece. He’s still acclimating to third base, showing the most room for improvement there defensively.
Offensively, he hit .286 in those 42 games, a small sample size that will be expanded upon in his anticipated return to the level in 2019. He had nine doubles, 20 RBI and 14 walks.
Steve Pearce was an expiring veteran contract Toronto didn’t need nor have a place for on their young depth chart. In hindsight, his second-half production would have warranted Boston’s top prospect. But that’s not how the game works.
Toronto is certainly pleased to add Santiago Espinal to their booming collection of young talent. After Pearce’s October heroics, Espinal will definitely have a lot of focused eyes watching his progress going forward.