A week ago today I wrote about the Brewers sending scouts to 2 Red Sox games, the second of which was started by Jake Peavy. I surmised that it was just as likely, if not more so, the Brewers were looking at relievers instead of Jake Peavy. However last night this tweet popped into my timeline. It claims the Brewers along with the Angels and Pirates are the final three teams interested in acquiring Jake Peavy. For the sake of argument, let's accept that this rumor has truth to it.
Jake Peavy is a mediocre pitcher. By some assessments he might even be bad. He used to be good but starting in 2010 he kind of fell off a cliff. Not Wile E. Coyote style, but it was noticeable. HIs SwStr% drops from double digits in 2009 to single digits from 2010 to now, and really had been declining since 2004. It's no coincidence his Contact% jumps in 2009 and on as well. His velocity has dropped and so has his GB%. However, I'd argue that's not what we should be concerning ourselves with necessarily. After all, we're not talking about a long term investment. We're talking about a 1 year rental. We should be asking, "Is he better than the Brewers in-house options?" The in-house options being Jimmy Nelson, Marco Estrada, and I suppose Mike Fiers.
It's hard to say if Jake Peavy would be better or worse for the rest of the season than Jimmy Nelson. I know Nelson destroyed Triple-A hitters, but as you can tell by looking at his start on Saturday, it's not a given he will pitch to the same level. In fact, I think we all knew he couldn't. That's not to say he cannot be good, and he's certainly better than his performance against the Cardinals. He's still a work in progress and even though I'm certain he'll be a quality major leaguer going forward, it's fair to wonder how well he'll actually perform this year.
It's easier to compare Peavy to Marco Estrada because we have much more information on the two pitchers. Here is their season so far along with their accumulated stats over the last 3 seasons:
Depending on what you're looking at, Marco Estrada has been significantly worse than Jake Peavy this season and marginally worse over the last 3 seasons. However the latter is pretty heavily skewed by this season. Looking at that table the only thing Estrada has actually done worse is give up home runs and it's not like Peavy excels at keeping the ball in the park. If Estrada were to be reinstated to the rotation it's possible, though seemingly unlikely, his HR rates would normalize. Were that to happen I'm convinced Estrada would be the better options. If not, and we saw no improvement from Estrada in recent outings, then it's very probably Peavy is the better option going forward.
I've never been a big believer in Mike Fiers. He has about as fringe as fastball as you'll see at the MLB level and he really relies on his command and deception to get by. I actually really like him out of the bullpen and in spot starts, however I'd worry about giving him significant time in the rotation. Even now with the current depth he's the third or fourth guy to be put in the fifth spot. I'd take Peavy over Fiers.
The final question surrounding the potential acquisition of Jake Peavy is: What do the Brewers have to give up? Peavy is making $14.5 million this year and then he becomes a free agent. Pro-rated, Peavy is owed somewhere around $6 million the rest of this season. It's likely the Red Sox would have to include some money in the deal. Since Peavy is a rental whose having a mediocre/poor season they can't ask for a ton in return.
I think the most likely scenario involves one of Mitch Hainger or Taylor Jungmann (although really it's anyone's guess). Here's where I start to balk at the deal. I view Haniger as a 4th outfielder or platoon corner OF more than a regular. However it is possible he can become a solid average right fielder. I view Taylor Jungmann as a 4th or 5th starter. It's possible, though I think less so than with Hainger, that he could develop into something a little better. Losing either feels like a bad long term payoff for a back-end SP rental.
Personally, I want to see Jimmy Nelson stay up. I think there's a real chance he can give us something like a 3.75 ERA performance for the rest of the season. I also think there's a real chance Peavy can do the same in 14 or so starts in the National League. So while I'd prefer not to see it happen, I can't say it would absolutely be a mistake to acquire him. Starting pitching depth is extremely important and I think it's one of the most underrated aspects of building a contending team. It would be disappointing to see Nelson sent back to Nashville, but it might be better than slotting Estrada or Fiers into the spot of an injured starter in a week or a month. It's not exciting, but that's no reason to not do the deal. Besides, depending on the prospect cost, a Peavy deal doesn't prohibit the Brewers from making other moves.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs