Free agent outlook: Jake Peavy

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As Jake Peavy heads into free agency for the first time in his career, we look at his past performance and his potential value on the open market.

With the postseason advancing into the league championship series, we'll begin our push to the offseason here with our free agent outlooks. Over the next couple weeks, we'll lay out the cases for the White Sox' key free agents, which will then turn into a storystream (like this!) to keep track of all rumors and developments.

Today, we'll start with Jake Peavy.

Last contract: Three years, $52 million with a 2013 club option for $22 million ($4 million buyout).

What did he do over that contract: He pitched the equivalent of two full seasons over three years, which is the root reason he disappointed in Chicago. He had his moments before and after his lat injury from 2010 to 2011, but only until his final season did he resemble the bulldog Kenny Williams thought he had acquired at the deadline in 2009:

Year Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H HR BB SO HBP ERA+ WHIP SO/BB
2010 CHW 7 6 4.63 17 1 1 107.0 98 13 34 93 5 93 1.234 2.74
2011 CHW 7 7 4.92 18 1 1 111.2 117 10 24 95 3 88 1.263 3.96
2012 CHW 11 12 3.37 32 4 1 219.0 191 27 49 194 10 129 1.096 3.96
CHW (4 yrs) 28 25 3.95 70 6 3 457.2 417 51 113 400 18 110 1.158 3.54

Did he earn it: If you like WAR valuation, FanGraphs has him at 8.8 because it loves his peripherals, while Baseball-Reference.com gives him a backloaded 7.3 (5 WAR in the last season) because of his problems preventing runs over the first two seasons. Either way, if you attach $4.5 million per win on the open market, Peavy came up short by about $15 million. In less tangible terms, he found a way to show fans why the Sox thought so highly of him.

Free agent peers: Peavy is one of the more unique pitchers on the market, which will both help and hurt him. Zack Greinke does ground him a little, because he's the only free agent pitcher who is a clear cut above. The rest are more difficult to sort out.

Peavy's on the second tier, and he has the most momentum in terms of performance and competition. He's shown the ability to pitch at a high level regardless of league, and there's a shortage of AL-proven arms with his recent history. Hiroki Kuroda matched Peavy in terms of value for the Yankees in 2012, but he's 38. Anibal Sanchez is younger than Peavy (28), and he settled down after a rocky introduction to the AL, ultimately giving Detroit what it needed. In Peavy's favor, that's only two months of proof, and Sanchez still hasn't topped 200 innings in either league.

The back of the second tier includes Dan Haren, who had a run of seven strong 200-inning seasons across both leagues end in 2012 due to a balky back. He's 32, but he could be an old 32. Also, Edwin Jackson will be Edwin Jackson, whether pitching in the American League, National League or Honkbal Hoofdklasse.

And that's the cutoff, because the next level is full of National League success stories (Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse) or injury gambles (Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, Shaun Marcum).

If teams are confident in Peavy's health -- and he certainly made no effort to bubble-wrap himself into an inflated payday -- his ceiling is the highest of the non-Grienkes. If the market moves more for durability than top-end performance, he'll have more competition.

Reasonable price*: Three years, $40 million seems like it walks the line between respecting Peavy's ceiling and anticipating some kind of injury. I imagine he'll also field some two-year offers with higher annual pay.

(*With the new TV deal, a number of teams may be inspired to open their wallets wide, and that could force us to adjust upward in a hurry.)

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