|Can he thrive away from San Diego?
First, let's get this out of the way: Jake Peavy is a fantastic pitcher and one of the best starters in baseball. He won the Cy Young award and pitching Triple Crown in 2007, has two ERA titles and two strikeout crowns, and ranks sixth among all active starters with a 3.27 career ERA. He's really, really good.
However, he's also been helped tremendously by calling Petco Park home for the past six seasons and the potential trade to the White Sox would send him from the most extreme pitcher-friendly, power-suppressing ballpark in all of baseball to a place that significantly boosts offense and specifically homers.
Going from Petco Park in the National League to U.S. Cellular Field in the American League is just about the biggest change in environment that a fly-ball pitcher like Peavy could experience, and there's plenty of reason to wonder whether he'd be a dominant, Cy Young-caliber starter for the White Sox.
Take a look at Peavy's career numbers at Petco Park compared to his career numbers everywhere else:
GS IP ERA SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 Petco Park 87 578 2.71 10.0 2.5 0.6 Elsewhere 121 744 3.71 8.2 3.2 1.2
Like most fly-ball pitchers Peavy is prone to serving up homers, but Petco Park has essentially erased half of his long balls. Knowing that his home ballpark turns so many fly balls into outs rather than homers has also allowed Peavy to pitch more aggressively, totaling 21 percent more strikeouts and 22 percent fewer walks at Petco Park. Add it all up and his ERA has been 2.71 at Petco Park and 3.71 everywhere else.
Now, most pitchers fare better at home, so the full-run difference isn't quite as dramatic as it appears, but the point remains. Peavy has been a much different, far more effective pitcher at Petco Park. And not only would a trade to the White Sox take him away from pitcher-friendly Petco Park, it would put him at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field in a league that features the designated hitter and arguably superior overall competition.
Chicago's ballpark boosts homers almost as much as San Diego's ballpark suppresses them, and Peavy would also be saying goodbye to the pitchers who've hit .094 against him. He won't suddenly turn into a bum the moment that he's traded from San Diego, but based on Peavy's track record away from Petco Park it seems likely that his ERA with the White Sox would be closer to 4.00 than 3.00.
Toss in the fact that he's been somewhat injury prone and is owed $48 million over the next three seasons with a $22 million option or $4 million buyout for 2013, and perhaps it's not so surprising that the Padres are willing to settle for a package that lacks a top-notch prospect. Now we'll just have to wait to see if Peavy is willing to accept a move to Chicago. His agent, Barry Axelrod, doesn't seem to think so.