A few days ago Jake Peavy wrapped up his 2012 season with the Chicago White Sox. Many pointed out that it was a microcosm for his entire year – extended brilliance, absolutely no run support, and Robin Ventura leaving him out on the mound a little too long.
Pitcher wins is probably one of the worst statistics commonly used in baseball. As we’ve seen with Peavy this year, the starting pitcher can’t control his run support, his defense, his bullpen, what the opposing pitcher does, etc. etc. So let’s examine a year that was a huge success for the most part.
For a guy like Peavy it was already gigantic progress that he was able to pitch a full season’s worth of innings and avoid injury, posting the most innings he’s thrown since his 2007 Cy Young season in San Diego. On top of that, he pitched quite well.
So what do the White Sox do with him this offseason? There’s a $22 million option for next year, which is a pretty gigantic amount of money. For reference, the average annual value of Joey Votto’s contract is $22.5 million. Their other preliminary decision is to buy out the last year for $4 million, which would seem to be the most prudent option.
Peavy presents some difficult variables to evaluate when trying to determine how much money to offer him. He has had tremendous difficulty staying healthy. Since 2007 he has posted innings counts of 173.2, 101.2, 107, and 111.2, and will turn 32 next May. Clearly when healthy, however, Peavy is a high end #2 starter. Heading into next year the White Sox rotation without Peavy would be Sale, Floyd, Danks, Quintana and then Mystery Box. There are clearly some questions marks there, with Floyd and Danks coming off of injury troubled years, and Sale and Quintana are both in the process of adapting to a full season’s workload.
The other options to supplement the rotation would be promoting from within, or acquiring a different pitcher in free agency. There are some notable free agent starters – Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, for example – or perhaps they could re-up with Liriano as opposed to Peavy, as he will almost certainly be cheaper. I would be overjoyed if they wound up with Greinke, but he’s going to be incredibly expensive.
Internally, there are guys like Charlie Leesman who may be ready next year, but he almost certainly would be a back-end guy, and you’d be relying on Danks to bounce back in order to replace Peavy’s production from this year. Nestor Molina, Andre Rienzo, and Simon Castro all look like they’ll have major league careers, but they’re even further away.
So re-signing Jake Peavy may be the best option for the team. But at what cost? The White Sox have shown a preference for short deals for pitchers, usually sitting in the 3-4 year range. This past offseason they gave Danks a 5 year $65 million deal, however was coming into his age 27 season, not 32, and his arm had never detached from his body the way Peavy’s did.
The contract I estimated off the top of my head for the Kings of Kauffman podcast was 3 years $36 million. I’ve gone back and forth on it, but it seems to make sense, especially when you factor in the $4 million buyout would put $40 million in Mr. Peavy’s pocket. It could be that another team comes along and blows that offer away, but I think that any more years or much more money than that and the White Sox would absolutely regret it and should pursue other options in free agency or the trade market.