The San Diego Padres continued shrinking their payroll by finalizing a deal Thursday that sent shortstop Khalil Greene to St. Louis in exchange for pitcher Mark Worrell and a player to be named later.
Now, they'll turn their attention back to dealing away ace Jake Peavy: Padres general manager Kevin Towers said he expects to speak with his Chicago Cubs counterpart, Jim Hendry, about Peavy at the winter meetings in Las Vegas next week.
"Things usually always heat up when you can talk face-to-face," Towers said Thursday evening. "I've had ongoing dialog with Jim Hendry, and we plan on getting together in Las Vegas and furthering our conversations.
"We've identified a couple of clubs that could work as third teams (to help facilitate a Peavy deal between the Padres and Cubs).
"After they re-signed (Ryan) Dempster it probably became more difficult, but Jim has assured me he'll do everything he can to make it happen. Maybe it's more complicated now (with Dempster having re-signed)."
The Padres shed $6.5 million, Greene's 2009 salary, by moving him to St. Louis. San Diego had been talking with Baltimore about Greene as well, but the Orioles, according to sources with knowledge of the talks, balked at picking up Greene's entire tab. The Orioles wanted to send pitcher Hayden Penn to the Padres and pay only a portion of Greene's salary.
When the Cardinals swooped in Wednesday and offered to complete a deal in which they would absorb all of the $6.5 million owed Greene for '09, the deal was completed in less than 24 hours.
"We're certainly losing a guy who has been a valuable shortstop to us over the last four years," Towers said. "He's struggled with injuries, other than two years ago, but he was a major contributor to two division-championship clubs."
The Padres attempted to sign Greene to a multi-year deal roughly a year ago and buy out his free agency -- he's eligible to hit the open market following the '09 season -- but could not get a deal done.
In addition to the reliever Worrell, 25, who was 3-3 with a 2.15 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings for Triple-A Memphis last season, the Padres will pick their player to be named later from an agreed upon list of three prospects -- one position player and two pitchers -- and receive him sometime between now and April 1.
Whether Peavy is still around by then remains doubtful. While Towers said that subtracting Greene's salary means that the ace pitcher could still fit into the opening day payroll, that clearly is not Plan A.
Indications are that, if he is to be traded, Peavy is doing what he can to steer that ship toward Chicago.
"It's the one place I don't think they're looking for a lot of concessions on a deal," Towers said of Peavy and his agent, Barry Axelrod. "If it was to the East Coast, they may look for his option to be picked up or the deal to be re-done.
"Chicago's a good ballclub, a good market, and they're in a good division. That seems to be attractive to Jake. Hendry is a good guy to deal with.
"I'm holding out hope we can get something done."