DANA POINT, Calif. -- Kevin Towers, San Diego general manager, loaded his suitcase and trade possibilities at midday Thursday and motored back down Interstate 5, headed for home and what increasingly looks like a quick resolution in the Jake Peavy trade talks.
The Padres GM, who had been camped out at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort since Saturday, said he thinks a trade will happen before the winter meetings, which begin on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas.
|Parting with Jake Peavy will require a fair deal for San Diego. (Getty Images)|
While Towers maintains there still is a chance that Peavy will not be traded, sources with knowledge of the conversations said Thursday that the Padres are pretty far along in talks.
Peavy's destination, though, remains uncertain -- though Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs right now are in prime position to acquire him. One source said Thursday that the Braves are the frontrunners and have told the Padres that they will include outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. Another source insisted that the Cubs remain very aggressive and are in solid position to land Peavy.
The third team making a strong pitch, according to sources, is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their situation may be even more urgent than that of the Braves and Cubs because of the number of free agents they're losing and because they are said to prefer to have a clear strategy when clubs can begin talking to free agents from opposing teams next Friday, Nov. 14.
Towers met with Barry Axelrod, Peavy's agent, late Wednesday night and indicated that his client could be on the move soon.
"I told Barry that the train's left the stations and I don't know if it's going to come back," Towers said.
As the GM meetings concluded Thursday, the Peavy situation appeared by far to be the most lively. Several GMs described the meetings as a sort of feeling-out process, learning what clubs need and who's available.
One reason Towers arrived on Saturday was to get an early jump on that process. Two clubs who are interested in Peavy, Houston and St. Louis, so far haven't been able to find a match.
"We know more today than when we got here Saturday," Towers said. "Nothing's imminent as of yet. We got to meet with the clubs we needed to meet with, and the process is moving along."
One caveat in talks surrounding the 2007 NL Cy Young award winner, Towers said, is that he has investigated paths that could lead to a three-team deal and even a four-team deal.
"It's not 100 percent that he's going to be gone," Towers said. "It all depends on if we get the optimum deal we're looking for."
The Braves agreeing to include Hernandez in a deal can't hurt, but the Padres are more interested in pitching help and middle infielders than they are outfielders. They figure to pick up veteran Brian Giles' option on Friday, and Towers would be happy with an outfield consisting of him, Jody Gerut and Chase Headley.
Atlanta is also said to be willing to include shortstop Yunel Escobar. The Padres too would like prized pitching prospect Tommy Hanson, but the Braves are said to be unwilling to part with him. Right-hander Charlie Morton, lefty Jo-Jo Reyes or heralded prospect Kris Medlan, a reliever, could be moved.
The Cubs' offer is believed to include center fielder Felix Pie. Sources also said the names of infielder Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Rich Hill have been broached by the Cubs. Chicago's disadvantage is that most of its stronger prospects are in the low minors, so they wouldn't be able to help San Diego in the immediate future.
But that hasn't stopped the Cubs, who also would like to re-sign free-agent pitcher Ryan Dempster, from being very aggressive. Among other things, GM Jim Hendry golfed with Towers on Sunday and then paired up with him during a GM bowling outing on Tuesday.
Because their prospects aren't as far along as those of the Braves, it is believed that the most likely scenario in which the Cubs would obtain Peavy would be in one of those three- or four-way deals Towers hinted at.
The other end of it is that Peavy has no-trade powers and would have to approve any trade. It is believed he would -- Towers is working from a list provided by Peavy and Axelrod -- but his agent said earlier this week that he may want certain concessions depending upon the locale to which he is traded.
Those could include a financial bonus to cover cost of living adjustments -- say, for housing for Peavy while he's away from his San Diego home -- more no-trade powers, a guarantee that his $22 million club option is picked up in 2013 or travel arrangements for his wife and children to join him periodically during the season.
• Investigating several different avenues to improve their rotation, the Atlanta Braves, in addition to talking trade with San Diego for Jake Peavy, also have approached the Florida Marlins about left-hander Scott Olsen (8-11, 4.20 ERA in 33 starts in 2008). Texas also is believed to have inquired about Olsen, who is eligible for arbitration this winter.
• Part of the reason the Padres are in the market for a shortstop is because they are expected to trade Khalil Greene. GM Kevin Towers said he does not envision a scenario -- at least, for now -- in which a potential Peavy trade would be expanded to include Greene as well. Baltimore and Detroit and have been mentioned as possible destinations for Greene.
• Right now, the Cubs are trying hard to pull off the Peavy trade and re-sign free agent Ryan Dempster. Which would leave them with a top-shelf rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Peavy, Dempster, lefty Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. Then they'd clearly head into the season as the NL Central favorite yet again.
• The Boston Red Sox are among the clubs who have done some background work on Detroit left-hander Dontrelle Willis, indicating the Tigers' preference for trading part of what last winter had been such a promising deal with Florida. Detroit needs a shortstop after cutting ties with Edgar Renteria, and a Willis-for-Julio Lugo swap would help each club unload a bad contract and help fill a need. Willis is due $22 million over the next two seasons; Lugo is owed $18 million over the next two seasons, plus he has a $9 million option for 2011 that vests with 2,400 plate appearances between 2007 and 2010 and 600 plate appearances in 2010.
• The Minnesota Twins have expressed interest in third baseman Casey Blake, as have the two clubs -- Cleveland and the Dodgers -- for whom Blake played in 2008.
• Mets GM Omar Minaya on the meetings: "No doubt things were accomplished. It was what I expected. Teams got a feel for where the potential is for trades. ... Where we are today vs. where we were Monday, we've identified clubs' needs and are seeing if we have a match with those needs." Minaya expects "one or two" trades before next month's winter meetings.
• The Yankees are expecting to fill out their coaching staff by hiring former big league infielder Mick Kelleher, who probably will be assigned first-base coaching duties. Yanks GM Brian Cashman says that the club is talking to Tony Pena about switching to the role of bench coach under manager Joe Girardi. Rob Thompson probably will wind up as third-base coach.
• Cashman said that none of the coaching moves or additions was made with the intent of lighting a fire under second baseman Robinson Cano, whose numbers (.271 batting average, .305 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 72 RBI) were among the worst of his career. "I think Robbie Cano is fixed already," Cashman said. "That's my opinion. I think how he finished the season demonstrated that."
• Cashman on free-agent pitcher Mike Mussina: "We have needs, and he can certainly fill one of those needs." Mussina is pondering whether or not to retire. Or, as Cashman put it, "what he wants to do in his immediate future, stay employed or enjoy his family?" Cashman stopped and chuckled, realizing that didn't sound quite right. "Or stay employed and enjoy his family," the GM said.
• The front-desk folks at the St. Regis Resort, one of the more pretentious places baseball has held any of its recent meetings, were so intent on shooing media and others out of the lobby area Thursday that one of the employees demanded to see the room key of someone standing there just to prove he was staying in the hotel. The guest who was, uh, carded was none other than the GM of the New York Yankees, Cashman. He was none too happy about the insulting behavior of the aggressive St. Regis employee, either.