Overpaying past-prime free agents in their thirties to be your franchise savior is sooooo 2007. But capitalizing on a past-prime free agent when his value is lowest to play an integral role on the team? Now you’re speaking the TheoJed language.
That’s exactly why when I close my eyes to go to sleep at night, Jake Peavy in Cubbie Blue looks more and more appealing. Wait… that sounded weird. I don’t fantasize about Jake Peavy at night. No, really. I was just… dammit…
Maybe it’s because in 2009, he jettisoned the Cubs in favor of a trade to the rival White Sox (which only came after he rejected the White Sox first trade proposal). The South Siders then signed him to a subsequent five-year, $77 million extension.
You know what, that could leave a mark… Apparently one that hasn’t gone away.
Every time Peavy blew a lead against the Royals, my dad would run up into my room and yell, “LOSER!” just to stick it to me. I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for Peavy (I’ll touch on that later) and voicing my support for him didn’t do me any favors this October.
But postseason (and fatherly) woes aside, the Cubs would be remiss if they didn’t express any interest in the former Cy Young Award winner. After all, there’s already some interest being expressed back from the other side.
Peavy almost perfectly fills the only free agency-related void exposed on the Cubs roster: the sixth starter/swingman in the bullpen. Carlos Villanueva filled that role admirably for the past two seasons, but the mustachioed one is the lone Cub to hit the free market this offseason.
According to those close to the situation, the 30-year-old is not expected back in blue pinstripes next season. That move leaves the race for “best facial hair in the clubhouse” wide open; it also leaves the door for signing Jake Peavy wide open.
This offseason could potentially go a lot of different ways for the Cubs, and this move makes sense anywhere you land on the spectrum.
Let’s say the Cubs are as aggressive as advertised this winter. Starters like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson and more have all been bandied about. In unicorn rainbow land, the Cubs find a way to ink two of these front-line guys to fill out the rotation.
Let’s also not forget that Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are waiting in the wings, and make a damn fine 3-4 combo, I might add. With Travis Wood as the incumbent, Tsuyoshi Wada returning on a one year option, and Jacob Turner likely getting a shot in the spring to show what he has left as a starter, Peavy provides even more competition at the fifth slot in the rotation.
If the 2004 Cubs taught you anything, it’s that you can never have enough good pitching. A battle for a quality fifth starter isn’t a luxury, its ideal. Worst case scenario, he losses the starter battle, becomes option number one for spot starts, and takes the role of long man in the pen.
Even if you flip the logic on its head, the move still makes sense: the Cubs sign NOBODY, return Arrieta and Hendricks as their top two starters, and leave the following three spots up to a Hunger Games-esq trial. After all, Peavy is a hell of a lot better of an option as your number three starter than almost anything you have right now.
Edwin Jackson, anybody? Case closed.
“But Joe, you even admitted how bad he looked during the playoffs,” you say. “You can’t bring that trash here!” you implore.
Relax. You’re forgetting that there’s a difference between the caliber of talent and overall play from the regular season to the postseason, and that ideally, by the time the Cubs are consistently in the postseason, Peavy would likely be relegated to the bullpen anyway. When you exclusively look at the former, he provides an upgrade.
In 13 regular seasons, he sports a 3.53 career ERA, a 1.186 career WHIP (walks and hits over innings pitched) and a 3.60 FIP (fielding-independent pitching). Villanueva’s numbers: 4.26 ERA, 1.292 WHIP and a 4.23 FIP.
Looking exclusively at Peavy’s numbers while in the NL: 3.23 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 3.44 FIP.
“But Joe, that includes his prime years, like when he won the pitching triple crown in 2007.”
Fair point, knowledgeable reader. Then maybe a l_ook at his career splits at Wrigley Field may provide a better ballpark (pun intended) estimation: 3.78 ERA, 1.357 WHIP and 2.62 FIP. Better on two of three accounts, which would still be…
When you consider Peavy will likely come at a discount thanks to his poor playoff performances, a deal is all the more attractive. A cap-friendly deal, say for two to three years at about $5 to $7 million a year, will leave plenty of room for the big guns.
My reasoning isn’t purely numbers based, either. Don’t be so quick to forget that Peavy was one of the best arms the NL had to offer from 2004 to 2008. And when you come away from two straight World Series with as many rings, you got something going right for you.
All of that practical experience at the pinnacle of the sport can make him an invaluable learning tool for the impressionable, young minds of Arrieta and Hendricks in the rotation and Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon in the bullpen. By all accounts, the mentor role is one Peavy embraces.
He wears his emotions on his sleeve out on the field, and while that may not always be a plus, it can be a rallying point for the players out on the field. I don’t see Starlin Castro or Anthony Rizzo making the jump to emotional leader next season, maybe not even in 2016. Peavy can help stem the tide until their ready to take over the clubhouse with not only their play, but their voices.
To that point, and to finally get back to that story I teased at earlier, I was lucky enough to be in the White Sox clubhouse the night he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2013.
The White Sox blew a 4-3 lead in the 8th and wound up losing the game 7-4. Peavy wasn’t involved in the game, but he had just returned from the DL. His name had already been flying all over the place in trade rumors.
While I was getting a soundbite from Paul Konerko about the disappointing loss, I noticed Peavy wasn’t at his locker, which I happened to be standing in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone coming out of the shower room in nothing but a towel. The person got closer to me, but I couldn’t tell if it was him or not.
All of the sudden, I felt a tap on the shoulder, and when I turned my head, Peavy leaned in and whispered, “don’t turn around, brother” and dropped the towel. He started laughing, and then promptly dressed up in a suit complete with a pink bowtie.
When everyone finished with Konerko, there was a mad rush for Peavy’s locker. He just calmly adjusted his tie, smirked, and said, “I suppose you guys want to talk to me?”
At his introductory press conference, head coach Joe Maddon said, "You have to have a little crazy to be successful. I want crazy in the clubhouse every day."
Jake Peavy is the definition of crazy. In him, Joe Maddon will get his wish.