Scouting the Trade Market: Jake PeavyBy
The non-waiver trade deadline is behind us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean trade activity ceases in August. As we discussed this morning, teams can still swing trades for players who clear waivers. This is where the Yankees can find an under-the-radar deal. The typical player who clears waivers in August has a high salary; that is, teams won’t put in a claim because they won’t risk getting the contract dumped on them. The Yankees can swoop in there and work out a trade, since they’re in a better position than any team to assume salary. One candidate who fits that description this year is Jake Peavy.
Yankees fans got an up-close look at Peavy last night as he handled the Yankees with aplomb after allowing three early runs. He’s not the same guy that brought home a Cy Young Award with the Padres earlier in his career, but there are indications that he’s not just some washed-up bum. Once he clears waivers, he could represent one of those upgrades that the Yankees could use this year and next.
- He’s started to adapt to the AL. Peavy’s most dominant days came when he pitched in the league’s most pitcher-friendly park while the AL was the dominant league. He only came over in 2009, and his numbers aren’t exactly pretty since then. But this year he’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the park despite playing in one of the AL’s better hitters’ parks. In fact, he’s pitched far more often at home, and has allowed just two of his four homers there.
- His control has improved, too, as he’s walking under two per nine. It amounts to a 2.89 FIP, which is quite stellar. He does have a 5.13 ERA, which is alarming at first, until you consider that the White Sox have among the worse defenses in the majors. He’s also been blown up in high-leverage spots this year, which, considering it’s just 64 PA, is not skill-based. In other words, as his luck evens out there his ERA will drop accordingly.
- ERA estimators in general think he’s a quality mid-level, or even bordering on No. 2, starter. SIERA, tERA, and xFIP all have him in the mid-3s. Other pitchers with a SIERA in the mid-3s: Ricky Romero, Chris Carpenter, Daniel Hudson, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Cain, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
- He had surgery for a rare injury — a tendon in his arm tore completely off the bone — a little over a year ago. That delayed the start of his season until May, and it’s taken him a while to get back into the swing of things. Last night provided some positives in that regard, as he went seven innings without visibly growing fatigued.
- He has a $22 million option for 2013 that would certainly be declined. Why is that a positive? It means that the Yankees would have another arm in 2012, allowing them to bypass the one option on the 2012 free-agent market (C.J. Wilson) and focus on the 2013 market, which appears far more robust (Matt Cain, John Danks, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, and Jered Weaver).
- The White Sox would probably love to shed his salary in 2012, perhaps kicking in money (maybe the $4 million buy-out for 2013) in exchange for a middling prospect. Again, this plays to the Yankees advantage of having deep pockets.
- He hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in the past few years, pitching just 200 innings since coming to the AL in July, 2009. His last injury, however, was a freak one — no MLB pitcher has been known to have completely torn a tendon off the bone — so that might mitigate the circumstances a bit. But only a bit.
- His strikeouts are down from his peak, as is his velocity. He seems to have compensated by developing even better control over his pitches, but there could still be a learning curve. As we saw with Mike Mussina and even Freddy Garcia, it can take a while to acclimate oneself to a diminished arsenal.
- In 17 starts last season, by far his largest continuous sample in the AL, he had a 4.01 FIP and 4.63 ERA in 107 innings — and that was while striking out nearly eight per nine innings.
- The money owed him in 2012, even if the Sox pick up some, means that he’s a lock to remain in the rotation. So while that might be a good thing, it also might work against the Yanks if he can’t continue to improve his game while working with low-90s velocity.
- As mentioned on YES last night, he seems to fade after he hits 75 pitches, which is about five innings of work. Even after he held the Yanks last night, opponents are still hitting .441/.444/.542 off him after pitch 75. That is, however, 22 singles, three doubles, a homer, and two walks, so there might be some luck there, too. But considering his recent injury history it could also be fatigue. Maybe last night was a sign that he’s getting stronger, but it’s hard to make a solid determination based on one start.
- He’d fit right into a six-man rotation: on six-plus days’ rest this year opponents are hitting .266/.291/.352 off him in 128 PA, which is his biggest sampling of rest splits.
Given what we’ve seen and heard from Brian Cashman this year, I’d give this maybe a one-percent chance of happening. Maybe less. The Yankees are seeking only proven upgrades, and while Peavy at his best, or even near his best, is a definite upgrade, in his current incarnation he might be too big a risk. Win, and you have not only a pitcher for the stretch run and the playoffs, but also someone to fill a rotation spot next year as the Yankees await a big 2013 free agent class. Lose, and he’s an expensive 2012 liability that could make it difficult to field a top-notch rotation. But when we weigh his positives and negatives and then combine it with the expected costs and risks, I think he’s as good an option as any for the Yankees.