The Mariners have been so good lately that I'd gotten too comfortable with things working out. Now I'm back to being wary of this front office's philosophy on trades. Jon Morosi is reporting that the Mariners had "high-level" scouts at Jake Peavy's last start.
Morosi's correct to characterize the Mariners as a buyer in the proposed scenario, though an acquisition of Peavy wouldn't just be for 2013. Peavy is under contract through at least 2014 ($14.5 million), and also holds a 2015 player option for $15 million if he pitches 190+ innings in 2014, and isn't on the DL to finish the year. He also has to throw 400 innings in 2013 and 2014 combined, and with the time Peavy missed already this year, it's close to impossible. Plus, if he meets those goals, he'll probably want to opt out for a bigger payday.
Peavy experienced a return to form of sorts last season, when he pitched 200+ innings for the first time since 2007, posting a 3.37 ERA and 3.99 xFIP, worth 4.4 fWAR. Peavy got off to a great start this season, but has gotten knocked around a bit lately, pushing his ERA up to 4.28. On the surface it seems like Peavy is returning to his pre-2012 struggles, but his K rate is actually up to 8.55 K/9 and his xFIP is lower than last year's, at 3.69. The main difference has been home runs, where Peavy is giving up 1.58 HR/9, a career high. His velocity is down a tick, but everything else looks fine. Peavy is 32.
Why would the Mariners be buyers? This goes beyond 2013. If the Mariners feel they can contend next season, Peavy will be an asset -- if he's healthy. Unfortunately, the chances of that being the case is slim. As I mentioned before, last season was the exception and not the rule on Jake Peavy. He's spent a significant portion of the last four seasons injured and under-performing his peripherals. The Mariners could deal Peavy at next year's deadline if everything blows up like 2010, but what if he's hurt? There's a more than a small chance Peavy will Morse himself and be unavailable to trade. There's also a chance Peavy could miss time at the end of the year, or even the playoffs, if we want to get super optimistic. Jake Peavy makes me nervous.
I'm not totally adverse to the Mariners being buyers on guys who are under contract past 2013. I'm just adverse to Jake Peavy, and I'm scared of the cost of acquiring him. Matt Garza has a nicer looking ERA and is less of an injury risk, but he's also a rental for 2013 only. The market has been set for starting pitching this deadline, and it isn't cheap. If Garza brings back a package centered around Mike Olt, what does Jake Peavy cost? Certainly, the team wouldn't trade a top guy, but will it cost Stefen Romero? James Paxton? Getting uncomfortable yet? I'm squirming a bit. Perhaps the White Sox don't want anything big for Peavy, and are just looking for salary relief over anything else. Peavy isn't cheap, and the Mariners have money. Doesn't a move like this make more sense in the offseason, when there's less risk and the cost will be lower?
As awesome as this team has been of late, there's still probably less than a 5% chance the Mariners will make the playoffs this year, even with Peavy. Cool Standings has the Mariners at a 1.8% chance of making the postseason, and even if the team continues to stay hot, it's sadly/probably a fool's errand to think the Mariners can make a serious run in 2013. That doesn't mean I won't root for the unlikely every damn second, but from a practical standpoint, I don't see how a move like this makes sense.
If the Mariners want to trade for Peavy in the offseason and push their chips in for 2014, that's something I understand. But buried in a midseason hole that they're unlikely to climb out of, no matter how vigorously they claw at the walls? I don't see it. Maybe the team is nervous about Danny Hultzen and wants another good arm under contract next season now that their utopian Hultzen/Walker/Paxton trio is under some question. That's something that can be done in the offseason, when everyone will know more about everyone.
If the Mariners steal Jake Peavy for a middling prospect and simply absorb the salary, I won't be upset. There are worse ways to spend $14.5 million in 2014 than on Jake Peavy, even though that's not my ideal way to spend. But I have my doubts that he'll come without a noticeable shot to the farm system. The timing isn't right, and the player isn't right either.
Colin likes the idea, and will be posting his counterpoint in a few hours.