The White Sox could have trotted out a starting rotation of Chris Sale, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana, and Hector Santiago for 2013. They could have spoken about their high expectations for each pitcher, and how everyone was set to take a step forward, and been genuine in doing so.
And they could have been just as genuine while expressing their disappointment in how the season was going when they flipped Floyd at the deadline.
By re-signing Jake Peavy for two years ($29 million) in addition to picking up Gavin Floyd’s $9.5 million option , the White Sox removed their trap door to a low-key rebuilding year. As currently constructed, Peavy’s presence removes the burden from one of Gavin Floyd or John Danks to be worthy of a #2 starter slot, and removes the expectation for both Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago to pitch at an MLB level for a full season.
Instead, Peavy’s plugged in at the top of the rotation again, a year after his improbable turn as it’s steadiest contributor. His injury-ridden past allowed the White Sox to pay him at mid-rotation, Danks-ian levels of $14.5 million per year, and only commit to two years of production from his stapled-on lattisimus dorsi muscle, despite a bearish starting pitching market that could have wriggled up more to throw his way.
It’s a good deal, no doubt, made possible by a pitcher with such little desire to explore the free agency market that he signed before he boosted his resume with a Gold Glove.
Peavy’s accommodating mood extended not just to accepting his third year in incentive-laden option form. He also is deferring his $4 million buyout of his previous contract to four one million-a-year payments starting in 2016.
Picking up Floyd for $9.5 million is also a good deal, since even at his most frustrating apex, he still offered nearly 170 slightly above-average innings (4.29 ERA in a crazy ballpark compared to 4.37 average AL ERA for starters). Average is never appreciated until its no-good cousins show up in its stead.
For a team with the White Sox market and stadium deal, no contract is truly onerous if there’s reasonable production behind it, but between these two good deals and buyouts for Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, the 2013 Sox arrive at $93.75 million in obligations. That’s with approximately $3 million to Dayan Viciedo coming, pending arbitration for Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham (possibly Philip Humber too), and league minimum salaries to fill out the roster from there.
The White Sox have clearly had their eyes on competing in 2013 for a while…
…but GM Rick Hahn previously announced that he wanted to stay around the $97 million Opening Day payroll of the 2012 season. He’s already more than in the neighborhood, and while Hahn’s gotten a fair bit of the gang back together and formed a rotation that’s plenty capable if healthy, the same offensive core of an 85-win team remains and is set to take another step away from its prime. Kevin Youkilis is “still an option” to return and plug a Brent Morel-shaped hole at 3rd base according to Hahn, but he seems to have otherwise used all of his working room to transform the roster from the same fair-to-middling Sox of the past few years.
But that’s based on Hahn’s self-ascribed barrier, which should make it a soft one. He’s a skilled enough negotiator, and familiar with enough with White Sox business to be aware how little incentive he has to be completely transparent about his parameters. More encouragingly, Hahn’s first move as a GM displayed some sleight of hand, as he spent Friday lamenting the barren market for starters that would probably results in Peavy’s departure, but was closing the deal for under-market, and within the exclusive negotiating window on Tuesday.
More surprises of this nature are welcome.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan