White Sox

Peavy, Dunn giving Kenny Williams a return on investment

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Peavy, Dunn giving Kenny Williams a return on investment

As sports fans, we are always looking for results, instant gratification in the form of some hardware for our beloved teams. We long for it because at the end of the day we deem the success of a professional ball club as our own. It is truly a personal investment both monetarily and emotionally. For the past 12 years, White Sox fans have intermittently praised and pointed the finger at general manager Kenny Williams. Approval ratings plummeted to an all-time low last year when 28 million in the form of Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn reaped next to no production. The first chapter of the 2012 season has told a much different story to this point so what is the reason for Williams sudden return on investment?

In 2011, Peavy was underwhelming to say the least. It may sound harsh, but the overpowering right-hander was having trouble with velocity and control which caused him to record the highest ERA (4.92) of his career. Peavy only saw 111 and 23 innings of action, less than half of his 2007 Cy Young year total. The problem was 2011 Jake and 2007 Jake were two completely different pitchers. Last year, Peavy was battling not only opposing hitters, but also the uncertainty of his surgically reattached lat muscle. It was his first season back from surgery to repair a completely torn latissimus dorsi and his lack of confidence in his body was glaringly obvious.

This year, Jake has taken a different approach to his pitching philosophy and the results are undeniable. While he still relies mostly on his fastball, Peavy has thrown substantially more change-ups this year, stressing location rather than trying to overpower hitters. He knows what his bodys limits are and he is beginning to play to his own strengths. Peavy holds the third lowest ERA (2.39) in the American League, the second lowest WHIP (.91), and is still top 10 in strikeouts. The south side ace was named AL Pitcher of the Month for April, and has already thrown more than half the amount of innings as he did last season. Peavy is currently in the final year of his contract, so naturally trade rumors have gotten louder as his production has increased but this has not fazed the anchor of the White Sox pitching staff, if anything it has made him more effective.

Another big time performer that has Williams wiping the sweat off his brow in relief is Dunn. The slugger is widely regarded across baseball as a pure power hitter. The behemoth of a man stands 66 285 lbs. and he can promise you two things: home runs and strikeouts. Unfortunately for Williams and the rest of Sox nation, Dunn only held true to one half of that statement last year. The big man hit a befuddling .159 last season and every single one of his power numbers dropped by more than 50 percent. Whether it was playing with a new team or facing new pitchers in the AL, Dunn was frustrated at the plate and at one point he even went as far as throwing around the idea of retirement.

If Im not having fun anymore, Ill go home, flat out Ill go home. I mean that. Swear to goodness, Ill go home. I enjoy playing, even though I suck, or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game. Love it. But as soon as I lose that, Im gone dude. Its true, Dunn told Yahoo Sports in the midst of his slump.

It is apparent that Dunn has cast away whatever self-doubt he may have had. He's already hit 15 homers, three more than his total last year, he is hitting .239 and rising, he has an OBP of .383, and he has driven in 35 runs. Dunn has already struck out 64 times in 148 at bats, but thats simply business as usual with the big fella. Dunns confidence is sky high right now and his preseason goal to be named Comeback Player of the Year is becoming more and more of a reality.

It is obvious that these two White Sox standouts are experiencing some sort of resurgence this season, but what is the reasoning for them being hotter than North Avenue Beach in July? Ultimately, it boils down to three things: money, reputation, and the future.

As we all know, one of the major motivating factors in professional sports is the all-mighty dollar. This year is the final stanza of Peavys three-year contract and he is scheduled to make 17 million, with a 22 million option next season. Whether the Sox plan to trade him before seasons end, pick up his option, or let him go to free agency, Peavy is in a make-or-break position and he knows it. A 15-20 win season could mean a long-term deal with a lot of zeros in it for Peavy. Dunn will make 14 million this year, and 15 million in 2013 and 2014 with the White Sox. Kenny Williams paid over 100 million dollars for these two premiere athletes and it appears as if they are finally giving a true return on investment.

The second motivating factor of the recent success of Dunn and Peavy is reputation. After a dismal 2011 season both of these once superstar-type players were put into question. They were not playing anywhere near the levels they were capable of and the south side faithful let them know it. Peavy mentioned that it was hard to go out to dinner with his family without being verbally harassed last year. He has admitted to taking the hill this season and throwing with a chip on his shoulder. So I think it is safe to say that both of these players have something to prove in 2012, and they are both well on their way there.

The third motivating factor for Peavy and Dunn is a harsh reality of not only sports but of any professional realm; tomorrow is never promised. Despite having a multi-year contract, your future as a major leaguer is never completely certain. We are talking about a 30-year-old Peavy and a 32-year-old Dunn who are both in what many would consider their prime. Two years ago, Peavy was told that if he re-injured himself he would never throw a baseball again and last year Dunn toyed with the idea of retirement so an uncertain future is not a foreign concept to these two.

The reality is both of these men are All-Atar caliber athletes who deserve the big time contracts they have been given. The only difference is that in 2012 they had their abilities and mental toughness questioned and they are responding in a big way. For that, Williams is breathing a sigh of relief.

--Joe Musso contributed to this article--

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

The crew wraps up the final day of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Ryan McGuffey talk about a rumored deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox (2:41) that would move some pieces around.

Rick Hahn speaks for the final time in San Diego and the guys react to his comments.

Later, they debate why fans are disappointed with the White Sox and the outcome for the team at the end of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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