It’s tempting to use past trades as a guideline for what to expect from the newest addition to the White Sox family, as though one man’s inability to get through the fifth inning unscathed somehow had any bearing on another’s ability to heal his ankle.
But the real problem with such comparisons isn’t so much a matter of what style of pitcher or deal the Sox usually engage in, but one of who exactly they’re dealing for. Name-brand veteran Sox acquisitions have come in many flavors – large like David Wells, frustrating like Jose Contreras, sort of disappointing like Todd Ritchie – but the reason comparisons to Jake Peavy fail is because, with the possible exception of Freddy Garcia, no one the Good Guys have ever actually landed has been as good when they got them.
This trade isn’t important because it involves Jake Peavy; this trade is important because the Sox aren’t really taking that much of a gamble by bringing him aboard. Sure, the change in leagues might give Peavy some trouble, and the new park probably won’t do him any favors, and the ankle thing is kind of annoying, but with the trade for Peavy the Sox turned the short-term “pitch better or you’re out of a job” approach to career development favored by Clayton Richard, the long-term maybe of Aaron Poreda and the perpetual whatever of the Jose Contreras/Bartolo Colon tag team into a guy who, at worst, will give up four runs a game in a league that surrenders five runs a game.
More to the point: with Peavy, the Sox suddenly have a chance instead of a whole lot of question marks.
But let’s say for a second it all goes horribly wrong and Chicago turns out to not be as nice a place as San Diego after all. Suppose Peavy bombs and we all look stupid for ever believing things like the 300 words preceding this one. In a way, we can take comfort even in that outcome, because even when these trades don’t work out for the Sox, they’ve never worked out all that well for the other guy, either. Anyone still upset about the great career Sean Lowe went on to carve for himself? Hall of Fame left fielder Brian Simmons? Four-time MVP Jeremy Reed, anyone? Does anyone have any reason to believe the Sox just handed over the long-rumored genetic advancement of Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Randy Johnson?
Of course not. Because they didn’t.