Commentary

After Peavy, everything's Jake

Originally Published: July 30, 2009
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Jake, Jake, Jake.

We could've done this two months ago. Signed, sealed and delivered. You never would have hurt your ankle running the bases in the American League. You could've enjoyed Mark Buehrle's perfect game last week, maybe gotten a new watch out of it. Heck, you missed prime hazing season on Gordon Beckham, who just might be the AL Rookie of the Year.

I know you were still on San Diego time, "just chill and let the waves come to you" time, but here in the big city, we're always in a bit of a rush, so you can understand our impatience at the time. You'll get used to it. You're going to be here for a while.

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziWhite Sox general manager Kenny Williams showed he's a shrewd dealer when it comes to the trading deadline when he got Peavy.

We've had San Diego weather this last month, Jake. Well, without the constant sunshine, that is. Still, it's a pretty beautiful day in Chicago on Friday, July 31, the day White Sox general manager Kenny Williams outfoxed baseball and stole you, Jake Peavy, for a handful of very replaceable pitchers.

In a surprise move even for "Trader Kenny," the Sox landed the Padres' ace at the non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for four pitchers: Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter. That's one serviceable major league left-hander (Richard); one big lefty on the cusp, if he ever masters a second pitch (Poreda); and two minor league pitchers who are basically just filler. Needless to say, Williams didn't give up any of his "untouchables."

According to the Chicago Tribune's Web site, Peavy's contract breaks down like this: He'll make $11 million this year, $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012, and there's a $22 million team option for 2013.

The Blue Jays said they wanted to be "wowed" for their on-the-market ace, Roy Halladay. The Padres just wanted to be noticed.

Peavy comes to the South Side after famously executing his no-trade clause to block a deal May 21. A day later, he hurt his right ankle running the bases against the Cubs in San Diego, and in early June, he found out he had strained a ligament in that ankle, landing him on the disabled list, where he still resides. I doubt he had much reason to return, and the team probably didn't rush his return.

While he can't help against the Yankees or Angels, whenever he gets off the DL later in August (it could be another three weeks or so), Peavy will give the Sox one of the best starting staffs in baseball, alongside Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jose Contreras. The Sox needed another starter like Mayor Daley needs the 2016 Olympics -- desperately.

After a horrendous road trip to Detroit and Minnesota, the Sox (52-51) rebounded by winning a thriller against the Yankees on Thursday and are 2½ games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. The Padres were 22½ games back of the Dodgers in the NL West.

Peavy, who has a career record of 92-68 with a 3.29 ERA, hasn't pitched since June 8, a win against Arizona. Only 28 years old, he was 6-6 for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the West, but he had a 3.96 ERA and 92 strikeouts and just 28 walks in 81 2/3 innings.

In an obvious cost-cutting move -- the team eliminated 10 to 20 front-office positions last week -- the Padres were willing to trade the right-hander for whatever cheap talent they could get.

Peavy was smart to invoke his no-trade clause in May to see whether a better situation -- for him -- would arise. The Braves and the Cubs were thought to be sweet on the Alabama native, but neither franchise likely could have taken on the salary, especially the Cubs, who are still in the midst of an ownership transition.

Would you have imagined that at the trade deadline, he'd be with the White Sox and Sam Zell would still own the Cubs?

Not that the Cubs, who are red-hot and half a game up on second-place St. Louis going into the weekend, couldn't land players. Lefty Tom Gorzelanny, currently in Triple-A, is probably starting for the Cubs on Tuesday. Reliever John Grabow is already in Miami, ready for action. They're not as sexy as Peavy, talent-wise, but this was a big deal -- on Thursday.

Who wouldn't pay to hear Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's unedited thoughts on this matter? Or potential owner Tom Ricketts' feelings?

The White Sox had an Opening Day payroll of around $96 million, but according to the fantastic contract Web site Cot's Contracts, they had only about $45 million in contracts for next year and just less than $28 million in 2011. The team jettisoned Javier Vazquez and his $23 million owed through 2010 and Nick Swisher and his $21 million (and change) owed through 2011. Some called owner Jerry Reinsdorf cheap for such a move. In truth, it was brilliant.

Neither player could be trusted, and neither is missed in the slightest. The Sox were similarly smart to sign Gavin Floyd to a four-year, $15 million deal before the season, locking him up at a bargain price.

There is something to be said for operating within a budget, and Reinsdorf and Williams are in an enviable position moving forward, unlike another team in town.

Peavy doesn't come cheap, but he's a relative bargain, given the going rate for top-flight pitchers. He is making $8 million this season and his three-year, $52 million deal kicks off in 2010. The only carrion in his contract is the $22 million club option, with a $4 million buyout, for 2013 that was supposedly a sticking point in earlier negotiations. I don't know the result of that deal, but I imagine something was worked out. It's a long way away. This move was made for today.

It's not that surprising that Peavy finally dumped his no-trade rights. The last two months haven't been pretty for him, or his team. He can see the writing on the wall. The Padres were even talking about dumping hometown hero Adrian Gonzalez. They might as well sign Value City as a naming-rights partner, because everything's going to be done on the cheap in San Diego.

No one saw this move coming, which is just how Williams likes it. (OK, every GM likes it this way, but let's keep perpetuating the image of Williams as a riverboat-gambler type of guy. It's more fun that way.) Halladay was the ace du jour at the deadline, and he's staying put in Canada for the season.

It's been a while, but I vividly remember the uproar when Peavy denied the Sox. All sorts of talk was going on about how the 2007 Cy Young winner disrespected the organization, that he didn't want to pitch for Ozzie Guillen, or pitch in U.S. Cellular Field, or in the AL at all.

The Sox were struggling at the time, with Floyd a shell of what he was last year and is again today. Some people even thought, in all seriousness, that the Padres were just as good. These might have been blog commentators or out-of-town "experts." Probably both.

Williams told reporters that he didn't bear any hard feelings, but that he wasn't going to write the pitcher love notes all summer.

"As I explained to him, we won't sit around," Williams told the media at the time. "We've got business to take care of. We've got to right our ship. So we're not going to sit around waiting for this, but who knows what will happen in the future?"

It's so cheesy to say, "The future is now in Chicago," and it's not really true. The White Sox are living in the present, ready to challenge their AL Central rivals, the Tigers and Twins. Each got better Friday, landing pitcher Jarrod Washburn and former Sox rental Orlando Cabrera, respectively.

Those guys are nice players, but they're not Jake Peavy, the newest, most unexpected ace of the Chicago White Sox.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPN Chicago.com

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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