Friday, December 19, 2014

Peavy Stays with San Francisco

Peavy will return to the Giants (NESN)
Shortly after re-signing reliever Sergio Romo to a two-year deal, the San Francisco Giants did the same thing with starting pitcher Jake Peavy.

Peavy, who went 7-13 with a 3.73 ERA between the Red Sox and Giants last year, will make $24 million from the deal, which breaks down into a $4 million signing bonus, $7 million salary for 2015, and $13 million salary for 2016. The contract includes a full no-trade clause for the 33 year-old righthander, who was traded in each of the past two summers.

Peavy pitched well in his return to the National League, bouncing back from a miserable start with Boston to post a 2.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 3.41 K/BB ratio in his dozen regular season starts with San Francisco. After helping pitch the Giants into the postseason, though, he bombed in the playoffs. He was particularly awful in the World Series, surrendering nine earned runs to a mediocre Royals offense in six and a third innings over two starts. The Giants won their third title in five years in spite of him, not because of him. Ditto last year's Red Sox.

And while there's no way Peavy could sustain his second half of 2014 for a full season, the Giants aren't betting on a dozen great starts from someone who's going to be 34 next year. They're betting on a three-time All-Star with a proven track record of success, a guy who's topped 200 innings in two of the past three years and five times overall. For Peavy to be worth the money, he'll need to provide three or four wins above replacement over the next two years combined. That shouldn't be too difficult for someone who's been worth no less than 1.7 fWAR in each of the past 11 seasons, several of which were shortened by injury.

Then again, maybe the Giants should be worried. Peavy's FIP, xFIP, and SIERA have gone up every year since 2011, and so has his walk rate. Meanwhile, his average velocity has steadily declined, with his average fastball falling below 90 miles per hour for the first time last year. Not surprisingly, he posted the worst strikeout rate of his career in 2014, barely cracking the 7 whiffs per 9 innings mark. Steamer says he'll be worth just one fWAR next year, and that's working under the assumption he makes 29 starts, something he's done only twice in the past seven seasons. At his absolute best he'll be a league average starter going forward, which means San Francisco, in all likelihood, just forked over $24 million to a below average one in his mid-30s.

But the Giants have the most recent data on Peavy, so one has to think they know him best. He did pitch really well for them last year, even if it was in a small sample size. In that ballpark and against weaker National League competition, who's to say he won't remain effective for at least another year or two? He rounds out the rotation beyond Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson. He also provides plenty of veteran leadership, experience, grit, and a great clubhouse presence, whatever that's worth.

So is Peavy money well-spent? Probably not, but few free agents are these days.

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