SAN DIEGO - Whoever doesn’t believe in the adage, if you don’t succeed, try again, hasn’t bumped into Kenny Williams yet.
When Kevin Towers last spoke to Williams in May, the White Sox general manager ended the conversation by boldly telling his colleague, “Somehow I’m going to end up with Jake Peavy.”
A little more than two months later, Williams' words proved true as the Southsiders acquired the Padres ace for four pitchers in a blockbuster at the trading deadline's final hour. The rebuilding and cost-cutting Padres received right-handers Adam Russell and Dexter Carter, as well as lefties Aaron Poredo and Clayton Richard, the latter of whom will make his debut start for San Diego Saturday. Poredo had been ranked by Baseball America as the White Sox's No. 3 prospect.
Back in May, Peavy, who had a full no-trade clause with San Diego, had rejected a similar offer from the White Sox, as the Padres were in the midst of a winning streak.
“It was kind of a shock (in May), I was blown away,” Peavy said Friday before departing for the Windy City. “My team had won five or six in a row and I was scheduled to pitch the next night against the Cubs. I wanted to stay in the National League and on the west coast.”
“But,” as the 2007 Cy Young Award winner added, “I told him (Williams) it wasn’t out of the question.”
Wasn’t out of the question because the right-hander knew he wasn’t in San Diego’s plans for 2010. Sure, he had a complete no trade clause, but Peavy also knew the Padres wouldn’t absorb his 2010 salary of $15 million on its book next year, period.
San Diego is dumping payroll, and currently at $40 million, it isn’t expected to jump much in the near future, Towers said, as the club looks to bolster its farm system.
“I don’t think that ‘maybe’ was even talked about, it was inevitable I was going to be dealt,” Peavy explained. “And I didn’t want to spend another winter like we spent it (last year). My family comes first.”
But after the White Sox's overture in May, all went eerily quite on the Peavy front.
Said Towers: “I was talking to (Padres owner) Jeff (Moorad) a few weeks ago and we both said, ‘if somebody was really smart right now, they’d jump on Peavy.”
Apparently, it didn’t matter to Williams that Peavy has been on the disabled list since mid-June with a right tendon strain and won’t be ready to pitch until late August.
Towers said Williams phoned him a few hours before the deadline asking if he would be interested in revisiting their May talks.
“Absolutely,” Towers replied.
Peavy said he was taking a nap at 12:20 p.m. (PST) when his agent, Barry Axelrod, woke him up with a phone call. Some 40 minutes later, Peavy was an ex-Padre. If this timeline all sounds a little too good be true, let it be known former Padre and current White Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink is a good friend of Peavy and had long been lobbying for the deal.
“Ordinarily a deal of this magnitude doesn’t get done in an hour and a half,” Towers added. “But the names were really identical (to May) and we had had two more months to scout their guys.”
Originally signed as a 15th-round selection in the 1999 draft by San Diego, Peavy was 6-6 with a 3.97 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 13 starts this season with the Padres. At the time he got injured, he ranked among the NL leaders in starts (tied for first), strikeouts (third) and opponents batting average (eighth, .228). Last year, Peavy went just 10-11 with 2.85 ERA, but on a team that lost 99 games. In 2007, he went 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts en route to the Cy Young.
In eight big-league seasons, all with the Padres, the two-time All-Star has gone 92-68 with a 3.28 ERA. He has averaged 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, while limiting the opposition to a .232 average. Peavy is making $11 million this season and is signed for $15 million next season, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012, with a $22 million club option for 2013, or a $4 million buyout.
Williams deadline deal move counters the Tigers' acquisition of Jarrod Washburn, Friday. By September, the White Sox could have a one-two punch in the starting rotation of Mark Buehrle and Peavy, to go along with John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Since taking over as White Sox general manager before the 2001 season, Williams has made more trades than any other in baseball, including acquiring Carlos Quentin, Jose Contreras and Danks, as well as former Sox Freddy Garcia and Carl Everett.
Garcia, Contreras and Everett all contributed to the team's 2005 World Series title, and Williams' win now message was not lost on Peavy.
“The number one priority isn’t ‘competing,’ it’s to win,” Peavy said. “And in talking to Kenny Williams that’s the number one priority of the Chicago White Sox, not just this year, but for year’s to come.”
Joe Connor is a contributor to NBCSports.com and author of the online MLB ballpark tour guide, “A Fan’s Guide To The Ultimate Ballpark Tour: Fully Loaded!” which is available for purchase exclusively at his Web sites: www.modernerabaseball.com and www.mrsportstravel.com
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