National / Sports / May 27, 2009

A fortunate refusal

Last Thursday, in the midst of a 20-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, the Chicago White Sox were rejected by Jake Peavy.

After, Padre GM Kevin Towers agreed in part to a deal with the White Sox that would send Peavy to the White Sox in exchange for (reportedly) four pitchers, three of whom were still in the minor leagues.

While some of my Sox-fan brethren stomped their feet and labeled it the “worst day in franchise history,” I can’t help but feel that Kenny Williams and company avoided a giant mistake in acquiring Peavy. While Peavy, winner of the 2007 Cy Young Award, would certainly have bolstered a Chicago rotation that features Bartolo, with Colon and Clayton Richard in the four and five slots, he may not have been worth the players asked for, nor the monetary commitment.

The pitchers going to the Padres more than likely would have been some combination of lefties Richard and Aaron Poreda, along with two players to be named later (who more than likely would have been draftees from the 2008 amateur draft—Dexter Carter and Daniel Hudson seem likely candidates). One can assume this based on draft rules, which preclude players from trades until a year after signing. So a PTBNL will more than likely be a player who won’t be eligible to be traded until, well, later.

While the Sox would have been lucky to not forfeit their top prospect, Gordon Beckham, Poreda would have still been a tough loss. The 2007 first-round draft pick throws really hard, topping off just under 100 miles per hour, and induces ground balls at an encouraging rate. His offspeed pitches may need more development (hence the second trip through AA this season). However, Poreda could turn into a monster. If anything, Poreda’s worst-case scenario portends a nice career as a power reliever.

Peavy’s contract is certainly not a bargain — hence San Diego’s willingness to part with him. Running through 2012 and possibly 2013, Peavy’s contract was signed before San Diego’s owner fell on hard financial times (along with the rest of America).

After a winter filled with rumored deals to the Cubs and Braves, Peavy looked to be in San Diego through June at least. But with the market not yet materialized, the Padres tried to ship Peavy and his bloated contract to the American League, where he would haunt them less. But Peavy prefers his familiar environment, the National League. Although Peavy has expressed willingness to pitch in Chicago, his enthusiasm is limited to the Northside club.

But why are the White Sox fortunate? Specifically, Peavy is a product of his home field, Petco Park. Known throughout the league as a pitching heaven, Peavy’s penchant for flyballs allows him to get away with many flyouts in Petco that may leave smaller ballparks — like U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play. That is not to say Peavy would have turned into a gopher balling Eric Milton-esque pitcher upon leaving Petco Park, but his split statistics show that his best performances come at home.

Add in the lengthy contract and tumultuous financial environment, and it appears Peavy may have saved Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox financial team a great deal of strife. Although the contracts of Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, and Jose Contreras may come off the books after 2009, new commitments to John Danks, Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd, and Bobby Jenks loom on the horizon.

With fly ball tendencies, and a heavy contract, Jake Peavy’s rejection of the White Sox was a blessing in disguise. Although some may argue that Peavy would still be effective in the American League, and a smaller ballpark, his performance would not have justified the financial commitment. Let someone else make that mistake.

Kevin Morris

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