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TELANDER: Red Sox reportedly have winning hand for Peavy in poker standoff

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Updated: July 31, 2013 12:31AM



This is the time for baseball poker players to do their thing.

If you are White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, you look at your dubious hand and say, ‘‘I fold,’’ ‘‘I hold’’ or ‘‘I’m raising you a minor-leaguer.’’

If you’re another GM in the game, you have to fold, accept the deal or raise it so one of the other gamblers doesn’t get the pot.

And the pot is right-hander Jake Peavy, whom the Sox confirmed late Tuesday had been traded to the Red Sox in a three-way deal that also involved the Tigers.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that because the ‘‘loser’’ — the Sox — got something in return for Peavy, a side bet that someday might be worth a lot more than the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner, who is 32.

Or not.

Deals become so complicated and are so contingent on progress, injuries, setbacks, development, meshing with different programs and, yes, luck that they almost can’t be measured for years. Sometimes there is no clear-cut winner at all.

But what is clear is that the non-waiver trade deadline comes at 3 p.m. Wednesday. If the Sox had been unable to trade Peavy before then, all the cards would have gone back into the deck and the game would have started over.

Peavy, who was 36-29 in his Sox career and is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA this season, was a hot commodity for any team in a pennant race. In addition to the Red Sox, that included the Athletics, the Braves, the Cardinals and maybe even the Rangers. And it for sure included the Diamondbacks, who are trying to keep up with the stunningly reborn Dodgers in the National League West.

What also is clear is that Peavy, who didn’t make his scheduled start for the Sox on Tuesday against the Indians in Cleveland, was being dangled to contenders like a worm on a hook. A squirming one, at that.

Peavy is a gregarious, excitable type. As he said with oxymoronic precision before the Sox-Indians game: ‘‘There’s a good chance I could start, and there’s a good chance I won’t start.’’

He stood in the dugout instead, spitting seeds and chewing the fat with assorted Sox players. He likely was just as amazed as everyone else by right-hander Andre Rienzo, who was called up from Class AAA Charlotte before the game to take his place. The first Brazilian to pitch in the majors, Rienzo shut down batters early like, well, Peavy in 2007 with the Padres.

Even though the Sox would go on to lose 7-4, Rienzo made another point during these nervous times. If he is solid talent from the Sox’ weak minor leagues, maybe a guy such as Peavy — even though he is owed almost $20 milion through next season — should have been kept around. You can build on a staff like that, provided it’s for real.

Which nobody knows. Because it’s poker.

The Sox are a very bad team this season, one that suddenly got old and confused after making a solid run at the American League Central title in 2012. At 40-64, they are a whopping 19½ games behind the AL Central-leading Tigers. Only two major-league teams — the Astros and Marlins —have worse records, so this trade-
baiting is huge for them. It’s all they have to offer discouraged fans.

Build for the future. Look away from now. Don’t worry.

It was a bummer to see second baseman Gordon Beckham injure his wrist early and get stunted this season. With only 183 at-bats, it doesn’t matter that he leads the Sox with a .306 batting average. What matters more is the erratic defensive play of shortstop Alexei Ramirez (18 errors) and the confusion at the plate of once-promising catcher Tyler Flowers (47 hits, 80 strikeouts, .205 batting average).

There is a lack of oomph on this team, a lack of soul.

Hahn wanted a lot for Peavy, and other teams didn’t want to give him a lot. That’s how it goes.

When Hahn traded injured reliever Jesse Crain on Monday, he took a leap of faith that the Rays will compensate the Sox with ‘‘appropriate’’ talent once Crain pitches again. That’s poker, too. It’s called trusting the guy who can screw you.

Peavy was forced to wait all day before word came Tuesday. But this is how you amass your chips — or lose them.

‘‘Crazy times,’’ Peavy said before the deal went down.

Happy times would be much better.



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