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Columnist
Peavy? Cubs? Well, don't laugh just yet
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 10/27/2008 12:04 AM

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Imagine a world where the Cubs throw out a rotation of Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly and - Jake Peavy.

It could happen.

Peavy to the Cubs is not merely the stale waft of cigar smoke and backroom gossip.

The Padres called, the Cubs said they're interested, and it's a possibility.

According to a West Coast source, the Cubs are the Padres' best option for a trade partner if for no other reason than they're not the Dodgers, who are Peavy's first choice, and they're not the Braves, who at this point are saying they won't deal their best prospects.

The Cubs are high on Peavy's list and might be first if not for the fact that he just built a home in Southern California, which makes the Dodgers his preference.

Still, trading your all-star pitcher to your biggest rival is not something the Padres want to do, and they'd very much like the Cubs or Braves to be a big player in this derby.

However, unlike the Dodgers or the Braves, the Cubs don't have the young pitching the Padres want in return, so GM Jim Hendry will have to be creative, something he has shown a propensity for in these situations.

At the same time, Dempster's a free agent, and as much as the Cubs and Dempster have both said they expect this to be a quick negotiation, if Dempster's agent is worth a spit he's telling Dempster to file for free agency after the World Series and test the waters.

After all, this will be Dempster's last shot at a really big payday and the best way to make the Cubs pay is to shop their offer and force them to increase their bid.

In the meantime, if Hendry is able to secure Peavy, it's strong insurance against losing Dempster and removes any leverage Dempster may have in negotiations.

Just having the Cubs in the Peavy sweepstakes might dampen Dempster's desire to shop around too long, because the Cubs won't be bluffing if they say they have other options.

In a perfect world, the Cubs would sign Dempster and trade for Peavy, giving them a terrifying rotation.

Hard to be too scared of the Pittsburgh Pirates with that staff.

So how do they make this happen?

Well, it will require removing some salary, and it starts with Jason Marquis and his $9.9 million contract for 2009.

The Padres don't want him because they're cutting payroll, but this is where the three-team deal comes in, something Hendry also has been able to maneuver in the past.

The Cubs can first send a package of, say for the sake of argument, Felix Pie and Sean Marshall to San Diego. It gives the Padres someone to patrol that huge outfield and an inexpensive, left-handed starter.

Then, the Cubs find a team like the Reds, Rangers or Rockies, or any club that can't attract free agents but has some prospects, and the Cubs send them Marquis and maybe a Kevin Hart type, a starter or two that third club can immediately add to its staff.

That team turns around and sends the Padres a couple or three top prospects close to reaching the majors, and you've got the framework for a deal.

There are other ways, too, like adding the Yanks or Red Sox to the mix. Those teams would like to add veterans at positions such as third base or first base, and the Cubs have a veteran infielder or two they may be willing to move.

Now, if the Dodgers or the Braves are willing to part with some of their considerable young talent, that hurts the Cubs' chances, but the Braves already have said they're not interested in trading their best prospects.

They could be posturing as they get ready to negotiate with the Padres, but as of this moment, they're not the leaders.

As for the Dodgers, they're loaded with good, young players, but they probably won't give up lefty starter Clayton Kershaw, and for San Diego to send Peavy only two hours north, they may insist that Kershaw be a part of the deal or they'll look elsewhere.

The Cubs wouldn't want to see Peavy wind up in St. Louis or Houston, or even Los Angeles, and Peavy wants to stay in the National League.

There'd also be no better way to energize a depressed fan base after another shocking first-round exit than to add a pitcher of this magnitude.

So Hendry's doing his job and listening to what people have to say.

No harm in that, especially since nothing's likely to heat up until the GM meetings in Southern California next week.

On the surface, it seems somewhat unlikely that the Cubs can pull this off, but when you dig down and think it through, the Cubs might wind up being the best option for both Peavy and the Padres.

Go ahead and laugh if you like, because it would take some luck and creativity, but Jake Peavy to the Cubs is on the table.

And a genuine possibility.

brozner@dailyherald.com