Analyzing the Familiar Elements of the White Sox Trade for Jake Peavy: Chicago, “The Biggest Balls in the Game,” & the Number 23

analysis of Chicago White Sox trade for Jake PeavyI hadn’t really planned on posting anything today. I am leaving for vacation on August 8th and using this weekend to get ahead on work stuff, but I haven’t written anything yet about the White Sox trading for Jake Peavy and the story behind how the whole thing happened is just awesome.

Here’s a quick teaser. The analysis of and story behind the White Sox trade for Jake Peavy involves the following elements:

  • Chicago
  • “The biggest balls in the game.”
  • The number 23
  • Ken Rosenthal
  • Potentially the best pitching rotation in the AL over the next three years, and one that makes my favorite team a darkhorse candidate to make some real noise in October should they find a way to squeeze into the playoffs.

Okay, time to tie all of these parts together.

First off, kudos to MLB Trade Rumors for absolutely hitting another grand slam the past few weeks with their coverage of the trade deadline. No one, and I mean no one, brings together all of the lightning-fast stories from every corner of the country like Tim and the good folks at MLBTR. If you are a baseball fan and don’t have them bookmarked, shame on you.

When I logged on today and decided to check out what the reaction was to the White Sox dealing four solid pitching prospects for a former Cy Young Award winner who is currently on the DL and has been criticized (even by me) for having pitcher-friendly-home-park-inflated numbers, MLBTR is the first place I went. And sure enough, they had found two great articles that told the remarkable story about how Kenny Williams made the Peavy trade happen at the 11:59th hour.

Before we go any further, here are links to those stories, along with compelling excerpts from each:

ChiSox pull off last-second gamble with Peavy deal — (Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports)

If it’s not my all-time favorite trade, it’s close.

It might not be a good trade, though I suspect it is. But for sheer audacity and shock value, how can anyone not like what White Sox general manager Ken Williams pulled off Friday?

“Unreal,” one general manager said of the Jake Peavy trade. “No question, it’s a very high-risk move. You’ve got to have great intestinal fortitude to do it.”

Another exec was even more blunt in describing his admiration for Williams.

“Biggest balls in the game,” he said.

“Literally with two minutes left, I’m on the phone with Axelrod and I’m on the phone with Kevin Towers and Rick Hahn is on the phone with Major League Baseball because it had to be in,” Williams said.

“I really didn’t think it was going to all come together in the end. I was prepared for it to not meet the deadline. It all came together with 23 seconds on the clock.”

How times change: Peavy trade comes out of nowhere — (Scott Miller, CBSSports.com)

Instead, there was ultra-aggressive, ultra-stealth White Sox GM Kenny Williams ringing Towers late Friday morning San Diego time asking about the chances of reprising that deal the two men put in place back in May before Peavy used his no-trade clause to scotch it.

That phone call led to, by far the wildest, craziest, most interesting trade of the summer.

Peavy was sound asleep napping with his middle son, Wyatt, 5, when he said he was awakened with a phone call just 40 minutes before the trade deadline, proposing the same thing he shot down in May.

I know that I excerpted a decent chunk out of each story, but don’t be fooled that the excerpts alone capture the whirlwind fury of the story behind the most surprising trade of the 2009 trade deadline. Go read both stories. Each provides an insightful, behind-the-scenes look at the how these trades came to fruition. 

Yes, that’s right…despite our past differences, I am strongly recommending that you go read Ken Rosenthal. He may consider me ridiculous and unprofessional, and I may have had some choice words for him privately to friends and co-workers (though I think I’ve kept it pretty clean and respectful publicly), but Rosenthal is unquestionably one of the best baseball writers out there. His account of the Peavy trade, in my opinion, is a quintessential example of why.

And now, let’s deconstruct the details.

analysis of Chicago White Sox trade for Jake Peavy - Ken WilliamsKen Williams, who has emerged over the past few years as one of the most proactive, respected, and forward-thinking GMs in the game, targeted Peavy long ago as a guy he wanted in Chicago. To Williams’ credit, he kept persevering until it got done. He also reportedly made a deal happen in 90 minutes when everyone, including me, had finally been lulled into thinking that the White Sox would not be major players this year at the deadline.

I think I speak for all White Sox fans and baseball observers when I say that I’ll never fall asleep on Kenny again until 4:00 has officially struck on deadline day.

Amazingly, there were four significant hurdles that had to be overcome in the 90 minutes left from when Kenny first contacted the Padres yesterday or the trade never could have come to fruition:

  1. Kenny had to get Jerry Riensdorf’s approval to take on the rest of Peavy’s $8 million salary this season, and the $52 million that is owed to him to through 2012. Despite the statements we’ve heard about attendance at U.S. Cellular Field being down and the team potentially needing to hold steady or even cut payroll, Reinsdorf signed off on the deal. (Not sure what this means for a potential Jermaine Dye extension, the John Danks contract talks, and even a potential renegotiation for Mark Buehrle, but that is all to be dealt with later.)
  2. Jake Peavy had to waive his no-trade clause, which he had refused to do when the trade was originally consummated between the two teams back in May. Peavy waived it, in large part I would assume, because the White Sox are contenders and built to remain contenders for the foreseeable future, while the Padres are not.
  3. Just to talk to Peavy about waiving his no-trade clause, they had to get ahold of him. And as you read above in the excerpt from the Miller article, Peavy was napping with his son when they called him 40 minutes before the deadline. What if his ringer had been off? If Peavy doesn’t return the phone call, the trade does not get done and Clayton Richard starts against the Yankees last night. Crazy.
  4. Not only did the White Sox, the Padres, and Peavy have to get all of the details ironed out between them, the two teams had to officially call in the trade to the MLB office. According to Ken Rosenthal’s story, they got the call in with 23 seconds to spare. Again…crazy. Can you imagine if the line was busy or Ken Williams’ cell phone was momentarily out of service? (And, on a side note, how ironic that would have been considering the name of the White Sox ballpark!?)

All of these details and many more combined to make the White Sox acquisition of Jake Peavy one of the more unlikely and exciting trades in the history of the MLB trade deadline. From the details, it appears as if karma and fate was on the side of the White Sox in getting this done. Not since Michael Jordan was roaming the Windy City have Chicago, a city icon (and that is what Ken Williams is becoming) being described as having “the biggest balls in the game”, the number 23, and last-second heroics come together in such exciting fashion. 

Now for some analysis. 

Part of the reason I wanted 24 hours to digest the trade before posting anything about it is that my opinions have been all over the map since talk of the trade originated in May. Initially, I was pumped and went so far as to create a petition for White Sox fans to sign in an effort to show Jake Peavy some South Side love. But after the trade didn’t happen, Peavy got hurt and I took a more thorough look as his career stats and splits. In so doing, I became convinced that the trade not happening was a blessing in disguise for the White Sox. So when word of the trade broke yesterday, my reservations won out and I was not as excited as a lot of other Sox fans seemed to be.

With 24 hours of perspective, reflection, and more information, I still have some reservations…but overall I am very happy with the trade and think the positives outweigh the risks and potential negatives. Furthermore, I love the fact that Ken Williams didn’t just make a deal simply to make one. He has a very specific plan for how Jake Peavy fits into the team’s plans for success this year and over the next three seasons.

Unlike many GMs, Ken Williams always thinks big and thinks in terms of championships. With the Tigers bolstering their pitching staff by adding Washburn, and the Red Sox, Yankees, and Angels also having excellent front-end starters and solid depth, Williams knew the Sox needed one more really good arm to add to the trio of Mark Buehrle-Gavin Floyd-John Danks. If the White Sox can hang in the race, Peavy is saying that he will be back by the end of August; and because his injury is an ankle problem, not anything to do with his arm, there is no reason to think he won’t be his usual nasty self pretty quickly upon returning. He’ll also be fresh, which could be a huge boost not only to help the White Sox get into the playoffs, but to be better positioned to make some legit noise once there.

Additionally, if the White Sox can get something done with John Danks, they could very well have a four-man rotation of Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks signed through 2011. In an era in which starting pitching depth is usually one of the most important factors for success, you would be hard-pressed to find another organization that would not trade their rotation straight up for the rotation that the White Sox could have locked in together through 2011 (when Buehrle’s current contract ends).

analysis of chicago white sox trade for jake peavyConsidering the young offensive talent we have in Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz, and Alexei Ramirez, plus hopefully another couple of productive seasons from JD and Paulie, the White Sox appear poised to compete for AL Central crowns and AL pennants for at least the next 2-3 years, while also giving themselves a more realistic chance at doing serious October damage this year…if they can make it.

So, while I’m concerned that Jake Peavy’s overall numbers will drop by coming to the tougher league and pitching in a tougher park, and while I wonder what the ripple effect will be of his hefty contract, and while I think that we dealt at least two guys — Poreda and Richard — who are going to be at least solid big league starters…I throw my full support and endorsement behind this deal.

When you have a GM that you absolutely would not trade for any other GM in the game, it would be foolish not to trust him. 

Well done Kenny. Time will tell if your vision of the future effect of the Peavy deal ultimately comes to fruition, but you have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of fan confidence in your moves. A lot of fans would kill to have a GM who swings for a double every now and then; White Sox fans should feel pretty lucky and excited that our guy never hesitates to swing for the fences.

As my KVB so aptly put in his text message after the deal was announced yesterday: “You can put it on the board…PEAVY!”

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Here are some other reactions from out friends in the South Side blogosphere:

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

* – Ken Williams photo credit: Upper Deck Blog



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

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