CHICAGO -- From as far back as Spring Training 2012, Jake Peavy talked about his honest hope to avoid a first foray into free agency and stay with a White Sox organization he now considered home.
Peavy backed up his hope to remain with the White Sox by proving himself on the field two years removed from surgery to reattach his lat muscle and showing himself as a consummate veteran leader off the field. And on Tuesday, the White Sox desire and Peavy's desire officially came together in a two-year, $29 million extension for the talented right-handed starter.
The contract calls for Peavy to receive $14.5 million in both 2013 and '14. If he reaches certain innings-pitched thresholds over the course of both the 2013-14 seasons, he can extend the contract to include the '15 season at a salary of $15 million.
A $22 million option was held by the White Sox on Peavy for the 2013 campaign, with a $4 million buyout. Peavy will receive that buyout payment in equal installments from 2016-19.
At 31, Peavy is set to begin his fifth season with the White Sox since coming over in a trade from the Padres, but what he hopes will really just be his second full campaign. There probably was more money and years to be had for Peavy on the open market as one of the top free-agent hurlers, but Chicago stands as his kind of town.
"I didn't want to play any games about my desire to stay in Chicago," Peavy said during a Tuesday night conference call to announce his new contract. "I was open and up front and hoping it would work out. This is a great day for me and my family, and I hope for the White Sox as well."
"His goal all along was to play with the White Sox," said Jeff Berry, who took over as Peavy's representative at the end of the 2012 campaign.
White Sox general man ager Rick Hahn's first deal as the man in charge was a high-impact maneuver, giving the club six quality starting pitchers when factoring in the team picking up Gavin Floyd's $9.5 million option for 2013 and Hector Santiago. That depth presents the White Sox with flexibility in working in John Danks from his 2012 season-ending shoulder surgery, while also giving the South Siders room to make trades with a precious commodity. But this day was about Peavy, who first received a White Sox offer the Monday following the end of the regular season.
Hahn said that there was good dialogue in that first week, but like many negotiations, the process hit a few walls. Agreeing to a two-year deal with the option was also important to the White Sox, with the robust starting-pitching market Hahn anticipates probably leaving the team out of bidding for high-end hurlers such as Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, who could receive four or five years.
Moving money around in the deal and allowing the White Sox to get creative with the contractual structure helped Peavy reach an agreement. It also showed the level of importance placed by Peavy in returning to the White Sox.
"Without his strong desire to come back, this doesn't get done," Hahn said.
"It wasn't about going to free agency," Peavy said. "I was not interested in free agency unless I had to be."
Over 32 starts and 219 innings pitched, Peavy posted an 11-12 record with a 3.37 ERA. He fanned 194 and ranked among the American League leaders in quality starts (third, 23), complete games (tied for third, four), strikeout-to-walk ratio (fourth, 3.96), innings pitched (fifth) and opponents' average (fifth, .234). Peavy could have won another four or five games with a little better run support, but he proved his career-threatening injury was a thing of the past and that he belonged at the top of the rotation for a division contender.
"Any time you can throw 219 innings or so in the AL Central and take the ball every fifth day and make 32 starts, it shows you are one of the most durable in the league," Hahn said. "He has been a great clubhouse presence the last two years, and last year we got the on-field performance we expected."
"There could have been more wins for the performances he put on," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Peavy. "Just as important if not more important, Jake is a leader of the staff. He would be a big hole to fill on the field and in the clubhouse. In some ways, he kind of sets the tone, sets the standard and intensity level."
As part of Tuesday's conference call, Peavy handed out praise to the Giants for their World Series championship. He also made mention of their collective postgame interview theme symbolizing the Giants during their amazing postseason run.
That team cared about each other, from top to bottom, and Peavy believes that feeling can push a team over the top, even with less talent than the opposition. It's a feeling Peavy sees daily with the White Sox, from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to Ken Williams to Hahn to manager Robin Ventura to the players on the roster. It's a feeling Peavy didn't want to leave.
"All along, Jake said he wanted to be back," Cooper said. "Things can change, but obviously they didn't. From a pitching-coach perspective, it made my day hearing the news."
"You can talk about wanting to stay and they can say that they want you back, but it has to fit with everybody," Peavy said. "I wanted to come back but on a deal that doesn't hamstring the team. Fortunately things worked out, and I couldn't be any happier than tonight."