Jake Peavy's successful relief appearance Saturday led to speculation, including from Peavy himself, that the former Cy Young winner could end up closing someday.
“I think at some point in time we might cross that bridge (of being reliever) when we get there,” Peavy said Sunday in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. “Hopefully I still have a few more years of starting in me, and I certainly believe I can. Obviously, I know it’s been a tough few years for me trying to stay healthy with my arm, ankle, and groin, but at the same time, I’ll try to take care of my body the best I can and hopefully make my living as a starter for the next few years.” --Sox Drawer
Thankfully, Peavy probably won't end up closing while he's with the White Sox. In terms of cost-effectiveness, it would be an awful idea.
Peavy will make $17 million for 2012 with an additional $4 million tacked on assuming his $22 million option for 2013 is declined. So, essentially, Peavy will earn $21 million in 2012. It's unlikely he'll come close to being worth that contract based on his track record of ailments, but he'd at least have a chance as a starter.
Take, for example, Peavy's 2010 season. He made 17 starts and threw 107 innings—a little over half a season. He was worth 1.8 WAR as calculated by FanGraphs, hardly an impressive total.
But 1.8 WAR for a reliever represents a fantastic season. Mariano Rivera was worth 1.7 WAR in 2010, placing him among the top 15 relievers in baseball. Carlos Marmol churned out 3.1 WAR to lead all relievers, and he had to have an exceptional season to reach that mark. A total of 3 WAR is a rarity among relievers—usually no more than one or two bullpen guys accomplish that feat each year.
With 1.0 WAR being worth about $4 million, Marmol's 2010 was valued at $12.3 million. Rivera's 1.7 WAR was worth $6.7 million. These are two elite relievers we're talking about. Combined, they weren't worth a whole lot more than Peavy's 2010 salary.
Peavy's base salary of $17 million for 2012 would easily be the highest of any relief pitcher in baseball. Rivera is currently the best-paid reliever in the game, making $15 million a season. Brad Lidge is next at $12.5 million, with Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon rounding out the $12 million or more relievers in baseball.
Yes, relief pitchers are generally overpaid. But Peavy would take that overpaying to another level.
Not that the Sox would even consider moving Peavy to full-time relief, though. He still wants to start for the near future, and that's good. Even if Peavy only makes 15-20 starts, he's likely to be worth more than he would be as a reliever.
Of course, the argument for Peavy pitching out of the bullpen is that doing so would conserve his body so he could be healthy for an entire season. That could very well be the case. But even if Peavy is healthy, he's likely to be worth about 1.0-1.5 WAR. It's much easier for him to reach the 2.0 WAR mark if he's starting.
Maybe when Peavy hits free agency after 2012 he'll be looked at as a reliever. But if he is, and even if relievers continue to be overpaid, hopefully he's ready for a severe paycut.
Of note: A reader by the name of John e-mailed these thoughts to me regarding Peavy:
It might also be worth noting that the Sox aren't on the hook for Peavy's full salary when he's on the DL because the insurance the Padres purchased carried over. I believe Dave Kaplan confirmed that earlier [Beerleaguer: Kap indeed did] this year during an interview with Jake's agent, but I don't think anyone knows the actual policy term. It's probably safe to say it covers 65-75% of his salary though. So assuming that he's less likely to experience an injury as a reliever, the move would also mean that the Sox bottom line is taking an even bigger hit with less of a positive impact on the W-L record.
Essentially, what John's getting at is that Peavy the relief pitcher has almost no chance to be worth as much as Peavy the starter. If Peavy the reliever stays healthy, the Sox will have to pay his entire salary for probably about 1-1.5 WAR. But if Peavy the starter gets hurt, the Sox will only be on the hook for about 35 percent while probably getting slightly more WAR out of their pitcher. Obviously, it'd be nice to get a full season of Peavy as a starter, but given this information, it makes zero sense for him to pitch out of the bullpen while he's with the White Sox.