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Columnist
Cubs very much alive for Peavy
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/26/2008 12:03 AM

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Don't believe for a moment that the Cubs are out of the Jake Peavy derby.

In fact, the Cubs have become the leaders in the Peavy chase, mostly because Chicago is his first choice, and the Cubs might be the Padres' only option, according to sources close to the situation.

Remember that Cubs GM Jim Hendry is as aggressive as they come, and the excitement of adding Peavy to a rotation that already features Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly might be too much for Hendry to pass up.

First, however, Hendry needs to move some payroll (Jason Marquis) and find that left-handed bat for manager Lou Piniella.

He might also need help from the future or current owners. Hendry has said that he doesn't intend to spend on someone's dime when he doesn't even know whose dime it is.

So he might need a few days or weeks to see if the ownership situation clears up before he spends beyond 2009.

Assuming that works out, there's a good chance he can land Peavy, who's due a manageable $8 million next season but jumps to $15 million, $16 million and $17 million the next three years.

As for adding a left-handed bat to play right field, the Cubs could kill two birds with one stone by trading for Peavy and right fielder Brian Giles, who led the Padres with a .398 on-base percentage and managed an .854 OPS in a pitcher's park that would have been good for fifth among Cubs regulars.

While some are unimpressed with what the Padres would take in return, it's understandable when you realize the corner into which the Padres have painted themselves.

They've got a wretched financial situation, a lack of young talent and an uncertain future, and once they went down this road with Peavy and asked him for a list of teams for which he'd play, it made it nearly impossible for them to change their minds.

And as of this moment, the Cubs are the only horse in the race.

As for Marquis and Giles, they both have a year left on their deals at $9 million, so that's where you start.

Neither team takes on more salary in that swap, the Cubs get the bat they need and the Padres get a starting pitcher.

As for Peavy, San Diego needs a young, inexpensive starter, and Sean Marshall continues to be the most logical fit, as we mentioned many weeks ago.

Beyond that, the Pads need live bodies, so Ronny Cedeno and Josh Vitters make sense, but if the Cubs need to add Felix Pie, or substitute in pitcher Jose Ascanio or infielder Mike Fontenot, so be it.

The reality is you don't hold up a trade for a guy like Peavy over any of those names, and while it doesn't sound exciting from a San Diego standpoint, the Padres are in a real bad spot here.

They need to move a big-salary player with a no-trade clause, and that player wants to go to a team (the Cubs) that doesn't have the monster prospects some teams crave.

But the Padres have an owner in the midst of a divorce who's being forced to sell half the team just as the economy is hitting rock bottom and the value of the franchise is plummeting.

That puts the Cubs in the driver's seat, and you've seen what Hendry can do to teams in this situation. Think Pirates and Marlins, though in this case it's the Padres, and it's quite possible Hendry can get from them all he needs - and more.

That would just leave him with the task of dumping some salary and waiting to see if he can add dollars to 2010 and beyond.

You would think that wouldn't be an issue, as the new owners will want to look like heroes, and by saying "yes'' to Peavy, they'd be off to a good start.

Is this a priority? Obviously not. But knowing Hendry, once he fills his shopping list, he'll begin thinking again of how to put more room between his club and the weak sisters of the National League, and that will bring him back to Peavy.

The bottom line is Peavy wants the Cubs, and the Cubs want him. And when Hendry decides he wants something, he usually finds a way to get it.

He'll have to be creative, but don't bet against him when it comes to high-value targets.

So don't be fooled by talk that the Cubs are done with Jake Peavy.

Not only are they still interested, but they may also be the Padres' only chance - and Peavy's only choice.

brozner@dailyherald.com