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Posted: Friday May 22, 2009 12:43PM; Updated: Monday May 25, 2009 2:20AM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Cubs, Brewers look like best hopes for Padres to get Peavy deal done

Story Highlights

Peavy exercised his no-trade clause to reject a deal to the White Sox on Thursday

The surprising Tigers have ridden improved starting pitching to the AL Central lead

Mark DeRosa's versatility should draw interest on the trade market this summer

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Jake Peavy
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By the time a trade involving Jake Peavy is finally completed and Peavy is somewhere other than San Diego, there will have been more stories, more rumors and more anxiety connected to talks involving Peavy than any previous trade talks. That is the only prediction regarding Peavy that's safe now.

With Peavy's rejection of a surprise trade to the struggling White Sox, frustration on the part of both teams seemed palpable late Thursday. Peavy, meanwhile, kept his remarks positive, saying in explanation for his decision not to go to Chicago's South Side, "Right now, San Diego is the place for us.''

That sounds great. But word is the Padres aren't too thrilled that they are back to square one after six months of wheeling and dealing.

But while that's understandable, generally speaking it's tough to have much sympathy for San Diego in this case. The Padres are the ones who signed off on the deal to pay Peavy $60 million more through 2012 and give him a no-trade clause not all that long before deciding that they did indeed want to trade him. For that (and many other things, including having a stadium built with taxpayer dollars only to try to tear down his team), the outgoing owner, John Moores, is the real villain in this ongoing debacle. Moores will be gone soon, but this mess may require some more cleanup.

So where do the principal players go from here?

1) Peavy. He is well within his right to reject any team. He took a below-market deal at the time with the stipulation that he would have a full no-trade clause this year and next, so why not use his veto powers as needed? Peavy says he wants to stay in San Diego, and that's a nice way of saying he prefers the Padres to the White Sox of the American League.

Peavy's "strong preference'' (agent Barry Axelrod's words via phone on Thursday) is to remain in the National League, and that was clear from the day he handed in his original, very unofficial, roster of teams that he would consider, listing the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, Astros and Dodgers. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted an unnamed Padres player as suggesting that Peavy might be reluctant to play for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, but Axelrod said, "There is no issue with Ozzie Guillen,'' and I tend to believe that. That would be a dumb reason to stay put. The issues were surely the league and possibly the ballpark (U.S. Cellular Field annually yields the most or second-most home runs).

Peavy is under no obligation to tell the Padres where he would go (or really, to go anywhere, either). The one quibble I would have with Peavy came this winter, when he suggested that he might consider the Braves, then started to backtrack when he wondered whether Atlanta was about to give the Padres too much in a deal for him, thus weakening their team. The man is from Alabama, the Braves were on his list (yes, it was an unofficial list, but still, it's his hometown team) and frankly he should have been flattered that Atlanta wanted him that badly.

2. White Sox. I don't like to second-guess Ken Williams, who's a brilliant GM and one of the greatest chance-takers in a game of cautious players. This appeared to be a better deal on paper than the ones the Cubs and Braves were talking about. But this still seems to have been quite a large risk for a team currently playing as poorly as the White Sox (20-1 losers on Thursday to the Twins). Williams is a fighter, and he obviously isn't giving up in the mostly mediocre AL Central.

But if Peavy himself has such reservations about the American League, perhaps he's right that he'd be better off staying in PETCO Park, where he has a career ERA of 2.71 (vs. 3.71 away from the pitcher-friendly yard). While White Sox people were said to be practically unanimous in support of taking this chance, and it's true that they currently look lost with a rotation of Mark Buehrle (6-1) and a quartet of disappointments (6-15 combined), that's still a lot of loot to spend for a team that spent all winter paring down and is currently 17-24. "I don't understand what they're doing,'' one competing executive says. "They did a good job of cutting down expenses and getting younger.''

Of course, historically Williams and the White Sox have been a smashing success defying critics and doing the opposite of what's expected. They do have $40 million coming off the books next year with Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Jose Contreras and Octavio Dotel all having expiring contracts. And it's true that Peavy's considered a rare, true ace. Yet it still seems like an awfully big gamble to blow your whole wad while taking a pitcher out of his comfort zone.

3. Padres. San Diego seems intent on paring its payroll to $40 million (even as it has now won six straight) in an effort to become the West Coast version of the Marlins. So the Padres will almost surely keep trying to trade Peavy. Decent left-handed prospects Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard, plus two more minor league pitchers would have made a respectable take in a rough environment to trade big contracts -- though some see Poreda as a future reliever.


The Padres wanted to avoid what GM Kevin Towers called a "public fiasco'' this winter by keeping things secret, and they seemed to do a good job of keeping these talks out of the public until there was an agreement on players. Although, that it got out at all (in San Diego's two outlets -- the Union-Tribune and led ex-Padre Trevor Hoffman to speculate, "This is just San Diego's way to force it ... [to] make him look bad. To do it the way they did it, they're trying to force his hand.'' Even if that's true, that's well within their rights. (I can't be against news getting out, not in my business.)

The Padres are believed to be getting annoyed at how little room Peavy's giving them to deal, and if Hoffman's right that they are playing hardball, that feeling of frustration would explain it. But they have no one to blame but themselves. It was their idea to alter courses so quickly.

The Cubs and Brewers now look like the Padres' two best hopes. Axelrod has said Peavy loves "Middle America,'' so presumably the White Sox' issue was not their location. The two other teams on Lake Michigan are aggressive traders (though maybe not as aggressive as the White Sox), and Peavy would almost surely accept the Cubs and possibly the Brewers -- though in this trading game, there are obviously no guarantees.

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