CHICAGO (AP) - Jake Peavy has plenty to smile about these days, and it goes beyond the contract he signed with the Chicago White Sox or the national championship his beloved Alabama won.
He is healthy.
The 31-year-old right-hander is coming off his best season since 2008 and he thinks the White Sox are ready to compete in the AL Central following a late-season fade that led to a second-place finish behind Detroit.
"The motivation's there," he said at the team's annual fan convention. "A lot of times, you learn twice as much in defeat as you do when you have success. Hopefully, that's the case here."
The White Sox spent 117 days in first place, only to finish three games behind the Tigers in the division with 85 wins. But they also believe they're in position to challenge for the division crown with Peavy and Chris Sale leading a seemingly deep rotation and John Danks coming back from a season-ending shoulder injury.
If they're going to overtake Detroit, it won't be easy. Not only are the Tigers getting Victor Martinez back after he missed the season with a knee injury, they re-signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez and added Torii Hunter to their outfield after reaching the World Series a year ago.
The White Sox's biggest moves?
Well, they shuffled their front office, with Rick Hahn getting promoted to general manager and Ken Williams to executive vice president.
As for the roster?
Well, there were no blockbuster additions. There was one notable subtraction - A.J. Pierzynski.
One of their last links to the 2005 championship team, the White Sox let the veteran catcher sign a one-year, $7.5 million deal with Texas in part because they believe Tyler Flowers is ready to step into his spot and because they wanted to re-sign Peavy.
He had just bounced back after three injury-filled seasons by going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA in 32 starts. His arm held up fine and he wound up pitching 219 innings, the most for him since he threw 223 1-3 in his 2007 NL Cy Young Award-winning season with San Diego.
He looked more like an ace than a guy who was on his way out, and he decided to stay put rather than become a free agent..
Peavy will earn $14.5 million in each of the next two seasons, and his contract includes a $15 million conditional player option for 2015.
"We felt that if Peavy was not added back - that given the nature of the free agent market right now (with) the starting pitching available right now, much less the price point that some of these guys were going for in this market - that we were going to be really challenged," Hahn said. "We did not have internal options we felt could fill that void anywhere close to the level of Jake Peavy."
Zack Greinke landed a $147 million, six-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that was the richest for a right-hander. Sanchez wound up with an $80 million, five-year contract, and Edwin Jackson wound up signing for four years and $52 million with the Chicago Cubs.
"We knew going into this thing that the free agent market would be like it was. I knew signing like I signed there was going to be a day where you watched Greinke and Edwin Jackson ... with huge paydays," Peavy said. "That just wasn't what I was after. I was after being where I'm comfortable. There's a sense personally here for me and team-wise that there's unfinished business here."
And that is?
"There's just no other place I would rather win and it would be any more special to do than here after the bittersweet ending last year," Peavy said. "After what I'd been through injury-wise, to be a part of that here in Chicago on the South Side, would be the sweetest part of it."