It's Cubs or bust for Peavy
LAS VEGAS -- Before we discuss where Jake Peavy is going to play next season, let's eliminate all the places we now know the Padres ace won't be playing next season:Atlanta. Houston. The Bronx. Anaheim. Tokyo. Quad Cities. And, just to cover all the hot spots on the atlas, he won't be playing in Maui, Aruba or Kazakhstan, either. We learned that Monday from San Diego's Kevin Towers, the only GM Peavy has ever played for. Now to be totally honest, Towers never did specifically mention Kazakhstan. Or even Quad Cities, for that matter. But he did say that Peavy and his agent, Barry Axelrod, have made it clear to the Padres that the 27-year-old right-hander has no interest in expanding the list of cities Peavy is willing to waive his no-trade clause to play in. So that means this story is now as clear as the 9,000 glass doors that lead you into or out of the Bellagio, where the winter meetings are unfolding this week in all their casino-laden glory. Either Peavy is going to be traded to the Cubs real, real soon. Or he's going to be staying in San Diego. Period.
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By the end of this week, Towers said, he needs to "have a good feeling" that there's a deal with the Cubs to be made. Or else it's time to stop talking about this oft, oft, oft, oft, oft-rumored trade and start thinking about how to build the 2009 Padres with Peavy still on the roster.And the payroll. "Our big focus," Towers said, "is, by Thursday, we need to know if there's a deal to be made or not. And if there's not, it's time to make a statement to our fans that Jake will be with us next season."
The trade itself -- potentially a three-team or even four-team extravaganza involving as many as 10 players -- does not have to be completed by the end of the meetings, Towers said. But this process has to be completed by "shortly after we leave here," the GM said."If we haven't made any progress or we're in the same place if it looks like it's not going to work out, then we need to let our fans know that," Towers said. "I don't want to go into the Christmas holiday with this many holes in our club. So at some point we need to say to our fans that Jake will be with us and we'll just need to fill those holes around him." There was a point late Monday when it looked as if that trade might actually be imminent, after a Chicago Sun-Times report that a deal was "very close," according to a source close to Cubs GM Jim Hendry. But another Cubs source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that no deal for Peavy was even "remotely close." So that means the Cubs and Padres will have to keep on trying to overcome the two major obstacles that have held up this deal for weeks now. One is that the Cubs don't have the pitching prospects the Padres are looking for, so they've needed to involve a third, or even a fourth, team -- which appear to be Baltimore and Philadelphia. The second issue is the Cubs' muddled ownership situation, which seemed to get even more dicey Monday, when the Tribune Company went the dreaded Chapter 11 route. But Hendry, though he wouldn't address Peavy by name or this deal specifically, said Monday that he has been given assurances by his higher-ups that he can continue to do business as close to normal as possible.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.