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Chicago White Sox a Sleeper for Jake Peavy?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IDecember 2, 2008

Upon further review, perhaps there's a sleeper in the running for Jake Peavy that hasn't yet been considered...and it wouldn't be far from one of the destinations he previously OK'd.

After trading away Javier Vazquez to Atlanta in a deal that appeared to formally take the Braves out of the running for Peavy, the Chicago White Sox may have positioned themselves perfectly to make a move for the 2007 Cy Young winner.

Let's look at the deals White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams has already made this offseason:

- Traded OF/1B Nick Swisher to the New York Yankees for a package of UTIL Wilson Betemit and pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.

- Traded SP Javier Vazquez and RP Boone Logan to Atlanta for a package of middle infield prospect Brent Lillibridge, third baseman Jonathan Gilmore, pitcher Santos Rodriguez and catcher Tyler Flowers.

- Signed 2B Jayson Nix.

- Signed 3B Dayan Viciedo.

What has this accomplished for the Sox?

First off, it cleared the final two years and $23 million that Vazquez is owed off the books, as well as moving Swisher's contract that has escalating salaries of $5.3, $6.75 and $9 million the next three seasons. As near as I can tell, that's over $41 million off the Sox bottom line between 2009 and 2011.

In return for Swisher the Sox acquired Marquez, who was one of the top prospects in the Yankees organization, and acquired one of the better pitching prospects in the Braves organization (Rodriguez) for Vazquez.

Also consider that the Padres have asked for one thing consistently in all public reports about the Peavy Sweepstakes: they want young starting pitching.

Now place Marquez and Rodriguez into the context of a team that has done a great job of stockpiling young arms in previous drafts and trades. The White Sox have a youngster named Aaron Poreda that many scouts think might work his way into the Sox rotation out of spring training next year. The Sox also have two young starters in their rotation already in Gavin Floyd and John Danks.

There are others in the Sox organization that could also be included in a deal for Peavy. Lance Broadway, Clayton Richard and John Ely are all highly regarded youngsters. In fact, Baseball America has pitchers ranked as three of the top eight prospects in the Sox system entering 2009 (Poreda, Richard and Ely), not including the arms acquired this Winter.

So the pitchers are there to make the deal.

The Sox also have depth in their infield. At third base, the Sox have the Cuban 19-year old Viciedo, Josh Fields and now Betemit and Gilmore. Fields had a nice season covering for injured Joe Crede in 2007, hitting 23 home runs in 100 games.

In the middle of the infield, Rookie of the Year runner-up Alexei Ramirez isn't going anywhere but moving from second base to shortstop. But around him the Sox have sudden depth that's both talented and young.

2008 first round draft pick Gordon Beckham is a shortstop by trade but might make a move to second to accommodate Ramirez. The Sox signed Nix, have now traded for Lillibridge, and also have highly regarded prospects Chris Getz and Eduardo Escobar as middle infielders in their system.

So the Sox have a bounty of young position players that could make a deal work as well.

When you consider Peavy's contract, the deal ordinarily would be out of the question. Williams has never been one to assume a large contract without at least splitting the cost with the other franchise (has done so with both Cincinnati for Ken Griffey and Philadelphia for Jim Thome).

But look at how much Peavy will earn in the coming seasons. He's due $8 million in 2009 and then escalating salaries of $15, $16, and $17 million from 2010-12 before a $22 million club option in 2013. Swisher and Vazquez were set to make $16.8 in 2009 and $18.25 million in 2010, both well more than Peavy's contract value for those two seasons.

The White Sox also have moneys coming off their books in the future that could afford them the ability to take on the size of Peavy's contract in 2011 and 2012. Jim Thome's $13 million salary (albeit being split between Philly and the Sox) comes off the books after 2009. Paul Konerko's $12 million annual salary ends after 2010, as does Jose Contreras' $10 million. These contracts expiring, as well as those of Octavio Dotel, Jermaine Dye and AJ Pierzynski, give the White Sox more than enough financial ability to make the move for Peavy.

Kenny Williams made the first splash of the winter when he traded Swisher to New York. He made the first big splash of the winter by moving Vazquez to Atlanta before any of the major free agent arms has signed.

Could he be laying the foundation for a surprise move that could land Peavy in Chicago...but on the South Side?

[Story updated as names in Atlanta trade became final]

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