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A King's Ransom

There’s been a lot of attention given to the potential of trading for Jake Peavy. The Padres appear eager to move him for the bounty they’ll receive in return and probably would want to get a deal done before the free agent period really gets going. They wouldn’t want Sabathia to sign, thus removing a potential suitor from the Peavy-sweepstakes. The Cards are one team mentioned as being a contender for Peavy’s services and the p-d’s Jeff Gordon says that the Cards should go all-in for Peavy.

There’s little doubt that Peavy’s a great pitcher. Indeed, he’s certainly one of baseball’s best and speculation has centered on the Padres’ desire to receive at least 2 young pitchers as well as a CF who can take over on an everyday basis in the "immediate to near future." Because there are so many potential suitors for Peavy’s services, the bidding should get quite high. In fact, the Padres are counting on it getting high. It makes no sense for them to entertain trading their ace w/o the promise of receiving a truckload of good-to-great players in return. It’s unclear whether or not Peavy would waive his no-trade clause to go the American League but, if not, the Braves, Astros, Brewers, Dodgers and the Cards could all be willing to offer quite a dowry for the chance to wed the Padres’ ace (though it’s doubtful the Astros have the goods to get it done).

I was surprised to discover how many ace or just-a-notch-below-ace pitchers had been traded over the last 4 years or so. All of them were relatively young, as Peavy is, and all but 1 would remain under the receiving team’s control for at least the next 2 years.

Pitcher age contract status
Santana 28 1 yr left, signed 7 yr extension
Haren 27 2 yrs. + option
Sabathia 2 wks. ‘til 28 FA at end of season
Beckett 25 2 years
Vazquez 29 2 yrs, $24 M
Bedard 29 2 years
Mulder 26 2 years
Peavy 27 4 years + option

These pitchers were all traded while in their mid to upper 20s and most had at least 2 years left until free agency. Peavy is signed through 2012 (his age-31 season) and has a $22 M option for 2013 that would, almost certainly, have to be picked up in order for him to waive the no-trade clause. For all intents and purposes, we should consider that Peavy has 5 left on a contract that will take him through his age-32 season.

Is there a pitcher on this list who had a more favorable contract to the team receiving the player than Peavy? The Mets have Santana from his age-29 through age-34 seasons at an average of about $23 M per season. Peavy’s is better. He’s younger and, even in that really expensive age-31 season, is cheaper than Santana. The Sox ended up getting a pretty good deal w/ Beckett but that was only b/c they were able to sign him to a below-market, 3 year with an option, extension half a season after trading for him. If you don’t mind 5 year contracts to pitchers (and I’m not crazy about them), Peavy’s is a great contract to acquire – considering his ability and performance.

That great contract is a double-edged sword, however. It also increases the price teams will have to pay in order to acquire Peavy. Speculation w/ the Cards centers around Colby Rasmus for 2 obvious reasons – he’s our best prospect, and he fits the Padres’ desire for a CF who can step in quickly. Could Daryl Jones fit the bill? Possibly, but he still will rank below Rasmus on any prospect list and he’s further away from the big leagues. Jones has all of 151 AA plate appearances. He’s at least a year away, and probably closer to 2, from regular big league duty. So the discussions about Peavy to the Cards have been along the lines of: Peavy for Rasmus. Let’s look at the hauls that these teams were able to get for their SPs.

  • Santana to the Mets for CF Carlos Gomez, SP Philip Humber, SP Kevin Mulvey, SP Deolis Guerra.
  • Haren and RP Connor Robertson to the A’s for CF Carlos Gonzalez, 1B Chris Carter, SP Brett Anderson, SP Dana Eveland, SP Greg Smith, OF Aaron Cunningham
  • Sabathia to Brewers for 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, OF Michael Brantley, SP Zach Jackson, RP Rob Bryson
  • Beckett to Red Sox for SS Hanley Ramirez, SP Anibal Sanchez, RP Jesus Delgado, RP Harvey Garcia
  • Vazquez to White Sox for CF Chris Young, SP Orlando Hernandez, RP Luis Vizcaino
  • Bedard to Mariners for CF Adam Jones, RP George Sherrill, SP Chris Tillman, RP Kam Mickolio, SP Tony Butler
  • Mulder to the Cards for SP Dan Haren, RP Kiko Calero, 1B Daric Barton
What patterns do we see here? #1 – there are a lot of good CFs on this list so Rasmus’ inclusion would hardly surprise anyone. None except for Adam Jones were probably in Rasmus’ realm on the prospect charts but Gomez, Gonzalez, and Young were all very highly thought of when the trades were made. Of course, the same can be said of Hanley Ramirez, Matt LaPorta, and Daric Barton.

It should also be evident that each team had to give up multiple players/prospects in order to get the deal done. 3 is the minimum for any of these trades, thus making the "Rasmus for Peavy" deal very short-sighted. It just won't be enough. You can make a case that the Mulder, Vazquez and Bedard trades don’t really belong on this list b/c Peavy and the others were better pitchers at the time of the trades and so you’re comparing #1s to #2s. If so, doesn’t that just up the ante for Peavy? Also, doesn’t the favorable contract up it even more?

The point is – Rasmus alone doesn’t get this deal done. It’ll have to be Rasmus +. Do we have 2 young pitchers we could include? Sure. Jaime Garcia’s a non-starter at this point but we could include 2 of Boggs, Mortensen, Todd, Ottavino or a couple others. Might Chris Perez be involved? I’d think his name might come up as might Bryan Anderson’s. The Padres are in desperate need of a catcher. Mike Parisi? I doubt they’d have interest. They can probably get more from someone else.

Do the Brewers, Astros or Braves have the young CF to get this done? It’s questionable. The Brewers probably don’t unless they include Corey Hart. The Astros? Maybe they could use Brian Bogusevic but their farm system is so barren, it’s going to be really tough to make this trade. The Braves? Possibly. The espn article implies that their foaming at the mouth at the opportunity to bring the southerner back near home. They have CF Jordan Schafer. He’s their top prospect but he doesn’t have much more AA experience than Daryl Jones. They could probably come up w/ a couple of pretty good pitchers but it’s not clear to me that they’ve got more than we do.

What about the Dodgers? They certainly don’t lack for prospects and young players. The questions lie more in each team’s desire to trade within the division and, w/ the Dodgers, why trade for Peavy if it appears as though they’ll be the favorites for Sabathia? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw and add Sabathia?

I’m not sure that we shouldn’t be considered the favorite to land Peavy. This would entail a package of something like Rasmus, Boggs and Todd or Rasmus, Boggs and Anderson – something like that and it may get higher, depending on other teams’ bidding. How high should we go? Peavy’s a great pitcher but it’s not at all clear to me that he’ll be more valuable to the Cards over the next 5 seasons than Rasmus will be over 6 as Peavy ages and Rasmus enters his prime. Add to that 2 young, cost-controlled starters and how much of our future are we willing to mortgage for an attempt to win in the next couple of years?