Jake Peavy and other marketable starters
Jake Peavy won a Cy Young Award years ago and pitched in memorable playoff games, and when he tells stories, he speaks with the perspective of someone about to take the field in an old-timers game. It's easy to forget that Peavy is only 30 years old; he'll turn 31 at the end of this month. But he has reminded hitters again this year just how good he can be.
Peavy is 4-1 with a league-best 1.89 ERA, and he's allowed only seven walks in 52 1/3 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.29 is easily the best of his career. But this is not a case of an old pro learning a trick pitch or successfully adapting with a set of tools greatly diminished by age. Peavy's velocity readings are not that much different from what they were in the spring of 2009, when he last pitched for the San Diego Padres.
"It just comes down to being healthy," Peavy said the other day from Chicago. "I know it sounds too simple to be true, that's what it is."
Peavy was on the disabled list when the Chicago White Sox traded for him in the summer of 2009, and although he had assumed his season was over before the deal was made, he worked his way back to pitch in four games at the end of the year for Chicago. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, Peavy wonders whether coming back to pitch that September was a bad thing, the first domino that led to other problems.
He altered his delivery to compensate for the physical effect of his injury, struggled in 2010 and then got hurt. But Peavy could tell right away this spring when he first threw that he was back to pitching the way that he had for the Padres.
"I really believe in being aggressive," he said. "I'm not a finesse guy. I can't have another mentality. I want to be aggressive and attack the hitters. If I'm healthy, I believe in what I can do, and that's where I am now."
Peavy is averaging a little more than seven innings per start and has thrown as many as 122 pitches in his starts. The White Sox hold a $22 million option on Peavy for 2013, and even if they contend all summer and keep the right-hander throughout this season, it would be a surprise if they exercised that option, which would make him one of the highest-paid pitchers in the majors for 2013.
As Peavy takes the ball Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers and Max Scherzer, the White Sox are 2½ games out of first place in the AL Central. Some officials are beginning to compile lists of possible midseason trade targets, and Peavy has been mentioned as a possibility. "If he's healthy," an assistant GM said last week, "he's really attractive, because he's been through it all, and he knows how to pitch."
But as always, the standings will dictate who becomes available, and with an extra wild card in each league, teams may be even more reluctant to surrender this season.
Some other starting pitchers who might become available for trade this summer:
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