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Market Watch: Jake Peavy

RHP Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres
Age: 27
Contract: Owed $63 million through 2012, with club option for $22 million in 2013
Height, weight: 6-1, 180 pounds
Career stats: 86-62, 3.25 ERA
Agent: Barry Axelrod

We know the San Diego Padres intend to trade 2007 National League Cy Young winner Jake Peavy before the winter meetings the second week of December. We know the Cubs and Braves are the leading contenders, with the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros also in the running, and with the Yankees also covetous. We know Peavy has full no-trade protection and clearly wants to stay in the NL (sorry, Yankees). We know the Braves, with better young players than the Cubs, appear willing to include shortstop Yunel Escobar, but not top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson, in a deal for Peavy.

But the one question that has yet to be fully explored, and the one that intrigues me the most, is this one: Why would the Padres want to trade Peavy in the first place?

Teams almost never trade an ace who is in the prime of his career, and when they do--as in the case of the Twins and Johan Santana last winter--it is because the pitcher is quickly approaching free agency and the team knows it has virtually no chance to keep him.

That is not the case with Peavy, who is signed for four more years at a relatively affordable average annual salary of $15.75 million (or roughly one-third less than what Santana is earning from the Mets), and whose 2009 salary of $11 million makes him a veritable bargain in today's game.

Could there be another reason the Padres want to trade him?

The Padres have been understandably vague about their motivation, with GM Kevin Towers simply reciting the stock GM line about trying to improve the team "for 2009 and beyond."

Paul DePodesta, the Padres' assistant GM, provides a little more insight on his blog, saying, "No one player makes a great team. We don't need to look any further than the 2008 Padres that went 63-99 with Jake Peavy." DePodesta (who, incidentally, is a product of Episcopal High in Alexandria) further makes the case that teams sometimes improve after trading away their best player(s), citing the example of the 2008 Cleveland Indians (37-51 before trading C.C. Sabathia, 43-30 after) and others.

"This, of course, doesn't mean that trading a star player ensures success," DePodesta writes. "What it does show, however, is that trading a star player can buoy a team. That is what we're exploring."

Here the question on my mind: Are the Padres concerned about Peavy's health? Understandably, they insist they are not, pointing out, in fact, that his fastball velocity has increased in recent years.

But there are some reasons for concern. Peavy does have a somewhat checkered recent medical history, with two stints on the disabled list due to elbow soreness, including one in the first half of this season. He has also had a couple of bouts of shoulder soreness, and the Padres have gone to great lengths to give him extra rest between starts. (His career ERA on regular four days' rest: 3.64. His career ERA on extra rest: 2.77.) His strikeouts per nine innings declined from 9.67 in 2007 to 8.60 last year.

Another area of concern is his violent delivery, and scouts have been saying for years that such a delivery makes him a strong candidate for elbow or shoulder surgery. To date, however, he has avoided both.

I'm not saying Peavy is hurt, or even that he is destined to be hurt, but if you're a team interested in trading for him, and considering mortgaging a sizable chunk of your future to do so, it is worthwhile to spend some time asking yourself why the Padres are willing to get rid of a pitcher so young, accomplished and (relatively) affordable when that is exactly the type of player everybody in baseball covets.

By Dave Sheinin  |  November 7, 2008; 2:54 PM ET
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Next: Market Watch: Mark Teixeira


I know it's the off-season, and the Nats didn't make the playoffs, but could you PLEASE push fresh content / threads to the community more often? Thanks.

Posted by: BinM | November 9, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

BTW, that includes Nattionals Journal as well.

Posted by: BinM | November 9, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Dave - There is some speculation that Moores will be selling the team due to his divorce and that the Padres need to chop payroll. Trading Peavy for prospects would lower payroll and put prospects in place. An alternative theory, but I still think that the frailty that you suggest has to be checked out. Most teams find a 4 year commitment to any pitcher to not be prudent.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 9, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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