Friday, July 26, 2013

Trade Target: Jake Peavy

The gruesome injury to Tim Hudson changed the game for the Atlanta Braves.  Entering mid-July, the Braves had potentially seven starters that were ready for a role in a major league rotation.  Beyond the normal five that had accounted for all but one start coming into July, there was the young lefty Alex Wood, whose stock continued to skyrocket after iffy mechanics and size questions dropped him to the second round last year.  Within a year of being a professional, Wood had made his debut for the Braves, coming out of the bullpen and provided a second left-hander to pair with Luis Avilan in the wake of season-ending surgeries for Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters.

Wood was not the only possible in-house addition for the Braves.  Last season's early-year ace Brandon Beachy was working his way back from last year's surgery.  A setback in June kept him from getting into the fray quicker, but while Hudson's season ended in New York, Beachy was making what seemed like his final rehab start for Gwinnett.

But the injuries started to mount.  First, Paul Maholm left his start last week with a sprained wrist.  That prompted the Braves to go to Wood, at least for a start.  It also all but eliminated any opportunity for Maholm to be in the mix for a rare contender-to-contender exchange at the deadline.  A day before Wood's return to the rotation, Hudson's injury forced the Braves to formally end Beachy's rehab stint.

Five starters with Maholm likely a week or so from returning to make it six.  On one hand, it seemed like having that depth proved fortunate as the Braves could sustain the injuries and still move forward.  However, there were question marks for everyone.  Mike Minor, the de facto ace, has proved himself after his first 39 starts in the majors were not exactly awesome.  However, is he ready to match up with Adam Wainwright or Clayton Kershaw?  Doubtful.  Julio Teheran is 19 starts into his first major league campaign and, at this time, has to be the clubhouse leader for a Game Two start in a division series provided Atlanta gets there.  Kris Medlen was on his way to the bullpen only a week ago and that knowledge was quite public.  I can't remember who pointed this out or I would give credit, but in his last 16 starts, Maholm has a 1.54 WHIP and 5.38 ERA.  Wood, for all the hype, is a pup and nobody has much of an idea of what Beachy is capable of producing this soon after surgery.

Some believe Atlanta was interested in the starting pitching market before the injuries and if they were dipping their toes into the market, they are diving in at this point.  My friend Bryce mentioned some of the names that have been brought up.  Not many people were happy with his idea, but I'll throw my hat into the ring as well.  If the Braves are going to make a move, they need a trade for someone better than the average guy who takes the ball every fifth day.  They have plenty of those guys.  Instead, they need an arm that will answer the call in a Game One assignment.  They need someone better than Hudson.  They need their first true ace since John Smoltz.

Could Jake Peavy by that guy?  As I mentioned earlier today, Peavy has his easy-to-see problems.  After an amazing 2007 season that brought him a Cy Young award and a career-best 5.9 WAR, Peavy has struggled to stay healthy.  He only missed a few starts the next season, but from 2009-11, he threw between 101.2 and 111.2 innings in all three seasons.  The White Sox had to feel snake-bitten after trading for Peavy at the 2009 deadline.  Entering a walk-year, Peavy was able to stay healthy and responded with his third season with a 4.0 WAR or better.  The White Sox responded by locking up Peavy before he hit free agency with a two-year extension that will pay him $14.5M both this year and next.  The White Sox also gave Peavy a player option for 2015 that was conditional on his health.  He needed to reach 400 innings during the life of the contract, which is unlikely since he is only on pace for about 130 innings this year.

He has appeared in so few innings because - surprise, surprise - Peavy was hurt earlier this season with a broken rib that kept him out of action for over a month until his return last week against the Braves.  Still, could Peavy be the answer for Atanta?  At his best, Peavy has an electric right arm, capable of throwing five pitches with confidence, including a slider that has been devastating during his career.  However, he's throwing it less this season, though I can't say if that is by design.  Instead, he has thrown his cutter more but still has a curve and a nice changeup that offsets his 90 mph fastball.

Peavy's full-season numbers are warped by three bad games.  An early start where Peavy was charged with six runs and back-to-back starts before he hit the DL that resulted in a half-dozen runs each.  It helps explain why his FIP and xFIP are not close to one another (4.10 to 3.69).  His K% of 23.5% is a little higher than last year and matches his career number.  Over the last three seasons, his BB% has hovered just over 5%.  His 1.14 WHIP is close to his number last year as well.  So don't pay much of a mind to his 4.28 ERA.  He has pitched better than that.  I think Peavy can definitely pitch better down the stretch now that he's healthy.

But how much longer will Peavy be healthy?  A month, three months, a year?  Bringing him aboard means Atlanta will be paying him in 2014.  Unless the White Sox helps out with some money, which seems unlikely, the Braves would be adding Peavy to their current commitments which means $57.858 million for next year would be on the books with arbitration cases for an additional 13 players, including three starting pitchers, two set-up men, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, Jason Heyward, and a few other key players.  That's not including Reed Johnson's 2014 option.

The problem seems to be that Atlanta doesn't match up well with the White Sox, especially if other teams with better farm systems come calling.  If the Boston Red Sox's interest in Peavy is high and they are willing to use their tremendous high-ceiling prospects, can Atlanta even get into the discussion with a package starting with Medlen?  Again, seems unlikely.  But let's give a shot.

The Braves are desperately low on on position prospects, but also don't have to replace a starting positional player before 2015 outside of Brian McCann.  That helps formulate our package. On the prospect side, I am including Christian Bethancourt.  The White Sox have tried to make due with another former Braves farmhand, Tyler Flowers, behind the plate and it's not gone so well.  Bethancourt is already major-league ready on defense and is in the midst of a nine game hit streak that has included four homers.  In fact, over the last two months, Bethancourt has homered seven times, impressive because he entered June with one homer this season and 15 during his career.  He's even been in a walk binge, especially for him.  I'm selling high because I'm still low on his bat.

To add to Bethancourt, I'm including Tommy La Stella.  He's going to hit, I am comfortable saying that.  His defense isn't loved, though some like it more than others.  He's also struggled to stay healthy.  Adding to the mix, Joey Terdoslavich.  I would love to keep him for the bench in 2014, but if it comes down to keeping bench player or getting a starting pitcher capable of leading a staff, I am going with the starter.  In addition to those three, the classic player to be named later.  The White Sox will have to decide after the season ends for the Braves, hopefully following a World Series victory, who gets added to the trade.  A list of about five players will be included.  Cody Martin, Todd Cunningham, Tyler Pastornicky, David Carpenter, and Juan Jaime to name a few possibilities.

Now comes where the fun really begins.  If there is a market for Peavy, the Braves have to include Medlen to get into the discussion.  If there's not a strong market, the Braves might be able to keep Medlen.  In the situation that the White Sox balk at giving up Peavy for the package previously discussed, Atlanta could include Medlen with the condition that the White Sox pays $5M toward Peavy's salary in 2014.

There are worries with Peavy, but if the package is right, Atlanta would be hard-pressed to find a better pitcher.

No comments:

Post a Comment