Meetings may be stage for Peavy deal
Padres GM Towers also hopes to find bench, relief help
SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, Padres general manager Kevin Towers flew to the Winter Meetings in Nashville preparing the final touches on a $52 million contract extension for starting pitcher Jake Peavy.
One year and 99 losses later, Towers could well be working another deal for Peavy when the Winter Meetings open on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, only it will be trading the 2007 Cy Young Award winner, perhaps to the Chicago Cubs.
Towers has spent the better part of two months talking to teams about Peavy, as the Padres move ahead toward 2009 with a dramatically reduced payroll. Towers hasn't found the right fit yet, though something could happen soon.
Towers has reportedly found a third team to help facilitate the deal -- the Baltimore Orioles. A report in the Baltimore Sun indicated that the Cubs would send outfielder Felix Pie to Baltimore and the Orioles would send pitcher Garret Olson to the Cubs.
The Cubs would then, presumably, send Olson to the Padres, who would want more in return -- possibly another pitcher, Sean Marshall, and prospects.
"I don't anticipate anything happening before the weekend," Towers said. "There's a third team out there, but I still think we've got a lot of work to do.
"With the Cubs, even though I have a great relationship with Jim [GM Jim Hendry], when they signed [Ryan] Dempster, it gave them another starting piece to their rotation. Peavy is probably now a luxury for them. It depends if they have the wherewithal to make it happen."
Towers has maintained all along that he wants Major League-ready starting pitching in return for Peavy, who will make $11 million in 2009 and is owed $63 million over the next four seasons.
"Pitching is our big focus, trying to add bullpen depth and adding to the rotation," Towers said. "If we move Jake, we hope we can plug three or four holes."
Of course, if a deal gets done before the start of the Winter Meetings, don't expect Towers to sit idly around his suite at the Bellagio, where the Meetings take place.
Towers wants to make upgrades to his bench as well as find relievers to add to the mix of a team that in 2007 had the best bullpen in the Major Leagues but one that faltered often last season.
The bullpen likely won't have closer Trevor Hoffman at the back end. The Major League career saves leader wasn't offered arbitration, meaning Heath Bell will get a shot to close. But with top setup man Mike Adams out with labrum surgery, the Padres need effective arms in the back end of their bullpen.
But these are things, Towers believes, that can be tended to any time between now and the beginning of Spring Training. Towers expects there can be deals in the way of pitchers to be had after Jan. 1. But that doesn't mean he won't listen to offers in Las Vegas.
During the course of the Meetings, the Padres probably will be asked about either of their young third basemen, Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Headley was converted to the outfield in 2008 though he could end up at his natural position at some point.
Kouzmanoff, who hit a career-high 23 home runs and drove in 84 runs, is coming off shoulder surgery last month -- albeit minor surgery -- which could limit his prospects of being moved in a deal.
Both players are young and controllable and the Padres like that. But they were approached last year about their top prospects and essentially told other teams to go away.
Rookie catcher Nick Hundley was mentioned frequently, but the Padres held onto him. And now, after an impressive three-month stint after being recalled from Triple-A Portland, he'll be their starting catcher.
The Padres will find him a backup catcher, possibly Del Mar, Calif., resident Brad Ausmus, who seems a natural as a backup in terms of spelling Hundley and mentoring him.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.