At a recent Padres game, San Diego general manager Kevin Towers was sitting alongside agent Barry Axelrod, a friend and confidante, when Axelrod brought up the subject of his top client, 27-year-old Padres righthander Jake Peavy. "Anything going on?" the agent says he asked Towers, who answered with one word: "Nah." After an off-season of false starts and very public rumors about deals involving the Padres' ace, there's been a much-needed cooling-off period in those discussions. That, however, doesn't mean that Peavy is staying in San Diego. "Given how the team is performing [the Padres are in third place in the NL West, with a 16--22 record through Sunday], I just can't believe it makes sense to have two guys in Jake and Brian Giles taking up half the payroll," Axelrod says.
At one point or another during the winter, Peavy was said to be headed to the Braves (for Yunel Escobar, among others) or, when those talks broke off, to the Cubs (in a package involving prospects Josh Vitters and Kevin Hart). An experienced dealer, Towers says he considers the entire episode to have been nothing less than a "public fiasco." He has vowed that the next time any substantive news about Peavy's status is revealed, it will be when an actual trade is announced.
The $60 million left on Peavy's contract through 2012, though, could make a deal hard to pull off in a difficult economy. Further complicating matters is that Peavy—who in the past has expressed reluctance to go to the American League—has full veto power over any trade this year and next. With the rebuilding Padres starting to slide, however, Peavy might expand his reportedly short list of teams he'd consider. (He was willing to entertain moves to the Cubs and the Braves, in addition to the Dodgers, Astros and Cardinals.) "Jake is someone who really wants to win now, and if he sees us as not being in a good position, that may change how he views things," Towers says.
The Cubs remain the favorites to land Peavy, but the pitcher, according to Axelrod, has expressed an affection for "middle America" in general, which would make the Brewers another logical landing spot. Despite losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency, Milwaukee is off to another fine start behind a surprisingly effective pitching staff that had the NL's second-best ERA (3.94) through Sunday. Still, beyond rising star Yovani Gallardo, the rotation isn't especially overpowering. The addition of Peavy, whose 3--5 record is misleading when you consider his 69 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings and .220 batting average against, would change that, while also keeping him away from division rivals Chicago and St. Louis. The Brewers have the prospects to make it happen and an owner, Mark Attanasio, who won't be scared off by Peavy's contract.
"We're always open-minded," Towers says of a potential Peavy trade. More important, the Padres are hopeful that Peavy is open-minded as well.
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Deal or No Deal
Some other intriguing players who might be moved this summer....
1. Matt Holliday, A's OF. If last-place Oakland's record doesn't improve soon, G.M. Billy Beane can probably get back a few decent prospects for Holliday, despite the leftfielder's early-season power shortage.
2. Cliff Lee, Indians LHP. Cleveland chose not to make a multiyear offer to the '08 Cy Young winner (below) last winter. He's eligible to become a free agent after '10.
3. Jon Garland, Diamondbacks RHP. Noted innings eater could help a starter-thin contender.
4. Aubrey Huff, Orioles 1B. Makes sense for the Mets if Carlos Delgado (hip) can't make it back.
5. Adrian Beltre, Mariners 3B. Dynamic defender has been an offensive disappointment, but the Angels like him.
LENNY IGNELZI/AP (PEAVY)
LOST CAUSE Peavy has full veto power over any trade, but the Padres' struggles should soften his resistance.
ANDREW WEBBER/US PRESSWIRE (LEE)