Next Big Thing is MLB FanHouse's look at emerging teams, trends and stars in 2009.
He finished sixth in MVP voting and fifth in Cy Young voting, and that was after only a half season of work. Along the way, he helped carry the Brewers to their first playoff appearance since 1982.
Can a pitcher this year really have the same sort of impact? In a word, yes. If you look at Sabathia's career numbers prior to the trade, Jake Peavy's are much better. Peavy strikes out more batters and allows fewer baserunners. He's already had four seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA, while last season was Sabathia's first. They've both won a Cy Young award. Sabathia turned 28 last season, while Peavy will turn 28 this season.
As we head into this season, everything's set up for Peavy to make a significant impact on a new team. While Cubs fans are still holding out hope the never-ending rumors come true before Opening Day, it's becoming increasingly likely Peavy will begin the season with San Diego. Still, the fact remains that the Padres are fully entrenched in rebuilding mode, and Peavy's contract is gargantuan. The Padres won't be in the race come mid-June, and there will be plenty of teams interested in adding an ace of this caliber. Assuming Peavy is healthy and pitching like he's capable, he'll be a hot commodity at the trade deadline for any team wanting to land the big fish -- just like Sabathia was last season.
There are a few possible holdups. Peavy does have a full no-trade clause, and he's recently said to have only been interested in the Cubs. Still, when he's stuck in San Diego watching his team lose the overwhelming majority of their games, he'll most likely lighten up a bit on his stance. Teams willing to trade for Peavy will also have to take on his long-term contract (Sabathia was in a walk year), but that could be more enticing than shedding prospects for a half-season of work -- like the Brewers did with Sabathia.
Another possible downside is the fact that Peavy's compiled his impressive career totals in a spacious home park. His home splits are much better than his road splits for his career. To that I'd say he's shown he can do it on the road. In his Cy Young winning year, 2007, he was 10-1 with a 2.57 ERA on the road. His home/road splits in '04 and '05 were very similar to each other. Last year the discrepancy was huge, but it wasn't a really large sample. Plus, more goes into baseball than just past numbers.
Once traded to a competitor, players like Peavy can't help but feel rejuvenated. They are only human, after all. When Peavy is dealt to a contending team in mid-July or so, expect him to take the league by storm and propel his new team to the playoffs. He mostly certainly will be the '09 version of CC. The only difference is that team won't have to watch him walk out the door to the Bronx the following offseason.