2/18/2013 6:34 P.M. ET
Peavy pleased offseason path led back to White Sox
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jake Peavy wanted to stay with the White Sox.
The White Sox wanted to keep the right-hander at the top of their starting rotation. In fact, he was the linchpin of their offseason plan.
Seems like a fairly easy deal to execute, doesn't it?
Easy doesn't stand as the best description for negotiations resulting in a two-year, $29 million contract with a $15 million option for 2015, a deal announced Oct. 30 that has Peavy back at Camelback Ranch.
How about "open and direct communication," a phrase general manager Rick Hahn might opt to copyright before his tenure in Chicago is complete? Both sides made clear what was needed to make this happen, and both sides understood that a deal needed to happen before Peavy hit the free-agent market.
As the negotiations unfolded, Peavy left behind what promised to be more lucrative offers on the open market to stay at a place where he felt he belonged.
"I wanted the fan base and my teammates to realize that I'm in this thing with you," Peavy told MLB.com during a recent interview. "I want nothing more than the White Sox to be in contention and find a way to get it done and do the ultimate, which we are all seeking.
"When you see how everything played out, I think it was good and fair for everybody involved. Then with this coaching staff that we all truly love, to be able to win together, I don't think that you can write a better story for me."
Talks between the White Sox and Peavy's camp began shortly after the 2012 regular season came to a close, following a 2-10 stretch in late September that bumped the team from first place in the American League Central to out of the playoffs. But informal June and July conversations between Peavy, Hahn and then-GM Ken Williams already let the White Sox know the interest was there.
"We never had any in-depth talks," said Peavy, 31, of the in-season discussions. "Just in passing, I expressed to them my desire to stay here and just told them they had my word before we left that I would do all I could do in the right way to stay here."
"He made it clear that he didn't want to be anywhere else," Hahn said. "He had hoped that before we made some sort of decision that precluded bringing him back, he would be given an opportunity to re-sign and be part of this going forward."
Barry Axelrod, whom Peavy called "as good of an agent as there ever has been in the game of baseball," decertified himself to take a job with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Peavy talked briefly about representing himself in lieu of Axelrod's career change. That idea gave way to Jeff Berry and CAA as Peavy's representation, a working relationship formulated during the final series of the 2012 campaign.
Peavy heaped praise upon Berry's desire to stand behind what he wanted, even if it didn't mean the highest-paying deal. Remember that Anibal Sanchez returned to the Tigers via a five-year, $80 million deal and the Cubs added Edwin Jackson for $52 million over four years.
"First-class people that truly went above and beyond to set their selfish pride or motives aside to make me happy," Peavy said of CAA and Berry, whom he knew from his work with pitchers Mark Buehrle and John Danks. "Obviously the free-agent market was lucrative and could have been fun for us to explore.
"I'm sure a part of them, because they get paid off what you make, would have loved to see that happen. For those guys to be as professional as they were ... Jeff Berry, tremendous, tremendous man. I certainly appreciate what he brought to the table."
The process wasn't exactly smooth sailing from start to finish. Hahn said there were a few hiccups and roadblocks, and it stuttered a couple of times but still came together fairly quickly, all things considered.
"Both sides were very blunt about our limits and concerns and needs," Hahn said.
Unmet limits, concerns and needs, for a time, had Peavy ready for his first foray into free agency.
"It got to the point where we said, 'Hey, I'm sorry. It's not going to work. You guys have to make moves and I understand that. You have to move fast,'" Peavy said. "Yes, there were days in there when I thought that it was time to move on. It's just part of the business.
"If it wasn't for having Jeff Berry and CAA involved and the friendship that I had with Kenny and Rick, I certainly don't think it would have ended the way it did."
So, what were the driving forces behind this deal?
Bringing back Peavy meant the White Sox had a solid No. 1 starter, who was merely coming off of an All-Star effort in 2012 with four complete games and 219 innings, and who also had become a leader for the young pitching staff. Peavy's work ethic and preparation, from studying spray charts to scouting reports to game plans to video, was something for other hurlers to emulate.
"If you looked at our staff, one through 12, I think everybody would point to Jake as the pitching leader," said Danks, a fellow White Sox starter. "There's no reason for us not to be able to go to him and have faith in what he has to say."
Younger starters are lined up behind the White Sox rotation, but the team didn't have the same confidence in them for the big leagues as it did in catcher Tyler Flowers replacing A.J. Pierzynski, for example. A fair deal with Peavy also prevented the club from overpaying for another starter without Peavy's credentials.
For Peavy, the Chicago return became simple.
His three sons are just an hour or so away by plane, giving him a chance to go see his oldest pitch in All-Star competitions or just spend more family time. His comfort with manager Robin Ventura and the White Sox has been expressed, and a healthy Peavy wants to take care of some unfinished business in Chicago.
"Based on the way he expressed it, we went out to get a guy and again to no fault of his own, he wasn't able to be that guy for us," Hahn said. "Now that he feels that he's getting back to that level, he wants to do it here. We showed faith in him and we went out to get him. Now he wants us to reap some of the benefits."
"Everybody can say what they want to say, but this is where I want to be. I'm a Chicago White Sox and proud to be," Peavy said. "I just didn't want to get to that point where I made a decision based on finances or anything like that. I knew what was important to me. I knew what was important to my family and my friends that were around me."