TORONTO — In some ways the remade Toronto Blue Jays owe the visiting Chicago White Sox a debt of gratitude, since it was their exploration of trade possibilities for Jake Peavy back in October that helped set the stage for Alex Anthopoulos to pull off November’s blockbuster with the Miami Marlins.
A few weeks before that franchise-altering deal went down, the general manager was close to acquiring the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner from the South Siders, whose $22-million club option for 2013 was due to be declined in favour of a $4-million buyout.
But things fell apart Oct. 30 when the right-hander agreed to a $29-million, two-year extension with an option for 2015, according to multiple sources.
While the work put into that deal went for naught, the ownership approvals obtained by Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston to take on $18 million over and above an initial 2013 payroll of $105 million did not. Those internal discussions fast-tracked the process and provided the basis for the approval process for the roughly $160 million in commitments through 2017 added from the Marlins.
Both Anthopoulos and White Sox counterpart Rick Hahn declined to comment on the blockbuster that wasn't, citing club policy. But back in January, without getting into specifics, Anthopoulos mentioned that the Blue Jays "were really close to making a trade that would have impacted our 2013 payroll, it was real, real close," in discussing the process that led to the Marlins deal.
Peavy, who wanted to stay in Chicago all along, conceded Tuesday that he "did hear rumblings from different people, but there was nothing (concrete) that I was aware of."
"I knew the White Sox had to make decisions in a hurry, and they were open with me about that in our dialogue back and forth, and me wanting to be back and trying to work something out," Peavy added. "I can't say I knew exactly what was going on, but I knew there was stuff going on, and I knew it was between two teams. It wasn't any of my business.
"The one thing I did ask for when I signed back … I didn't care about not having any no-trade rights, but I certainly didn't want to sign with a team and get traded before I went to free agency myself and chose my destination."
The White Sox didn't want to trade Peavy at the time, but were doing the responsible thing by seeing if they could do better than a compensatory draft pick for the ace in case they couldn't negotiate a new deal and declined his option, making him a free agent.
Peavy also wanted to stay, having had his first three seasons with the White Sox hampered by significant shoulder injuries before posting a 3.37 ERA in 32 starts covering 219 innings last year, but he prepared for the possibility of a change.
"I was excited about what this winter brought about," said Peavy. "I don't have anywhere that I would have said, I don't want to go play here. I have no problems, I want to win, period. I was excited to come back here, that's ultimately what I wanted and I think you saw that with the deal I signed, because of my teammates, because of my coaches, because I felt for me, personally, there was unfinished business here.
"I had just gotten healthy, and had a chance to show I can pitch and be a part of things after a few significant injuries that held me back a little bit. All that combined, I was excited to be back where I was. If it didn't work out, I would have dealt, and was ready to go anywhere where I had a chance to win, committed to that."
The extension was Hahn's first major move as White Sox general manager, coming just four days after he was introduced in the role.
Had the Blue Jays obtained Peavy, they would have only taken on $18 million of his $22-million option for this season, with the White Sox contributing the $4 million they would have paid for Peavy's buyout. It's unclear who would have gone back the other way, but the player or players would have been more enticing than a compensatory draft pick.
The Blue Jays were unlikely to have stopped at Peavy, and some altered form of the Marlins deal -- in which they obtained Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck, who was later flipped to the New York Mets as part of the R.A. Dickey deal -- may have been possible.
Ultimately, the Blue Jays, White Sox and Peavy ended up with what they wanted, leaving the blockbuster that almost was as an intriguing sidenote to an intriguing off-season.
"I tell you, it excites me when I see a franchise, especially one that was relevant during my childhood and how great of teams the Toronto Blue Jays fielded throughout the years I was a child, go all-in, so to speak, and make as bold of moves as they made," said Peavy. "I know I've got to face them, but at the same time if you're a Blue Jays fan or a baseball fan, how do you not get excited when a team that has been down for a few years, and I mean that with no disrespect because they've certainly been trying, go from that to probably favourites to win the division?
"It's exciting and refreshing."