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Columnist
Cubs' quick move could land Peavy
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/26/2009 12:00 AM

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Through no fault of his own, Tom Ricketts is under the gun.

The clock is ticking and the Cubs have a brief window right now to get a Jake Peavy deal done.

The Padres' horrible financial situation precipitated the White Sox talks, and has San Diego now talking again to the only two teams for which Peavy is interested in playing at the moment.

He will waive his no-trade for the Cubs or the Dodgers, but you have to think that if the Padres can't move Peavy's contract very soon, perhaps within a week or two, they'll begin offloading salaries, and at that point they might as well keep Peavy.

So it may be that Ricketts has only a short time to give GM Jim Hendry the OK to make the Peavy deal.

It's unfair, of course, that Ricketts faces this decision now, when the sale of the ballclub should have been completed a year ago. But with Sam Zell dragging his feet and squeezing Ricketts, the Cubs already lost a chance to get Peavy in November.

Now, it's up to the Cubs again, and Ricketts can ride in on his white horse and make it happen.

If, however, the Cubs don't pull it off soon, if Zell again gets in the way, one of the best starters in baseball might be off the market.

Peavy agent Barry Axelrod didn't exactly say it, but you get the feeling that if the Padres don't make a move fast he's going to tell them to forget about dealing Peavy.

"Yeah, we'd like it to be over with already," Axelrod said of trade talks that began in November. "To have to make these decisions so publicly, to be put into that position is trying, but it tells you a lot about Jake that he puts it out of his mind and does his job."

If Axelrod tells San Diego that it's over, that Peavy won't waive his no-trade clause under any circumstances, that would create an entirely different problem, and it would mean the Pads would have to move some other valuable commodities.

Right now moving Peavy solves their problem, but Peavy holds all the cards.

"We didn't start this. We weren't looking for a trade. Jake signed here because he likes it here," Axelrod said of San Diego. "They gave him a no-trade clause, and you shouldn't put a player in a position of having to look like the bad guy."

Like having it reported all over America that Peavy rejected the White Sox.

"We didn't reject anything," Axelrod insisted. "We didn't slam the door on them. We didn't say, 'No.' We just didn't say, 'Yes,' right now.

"Right now, San Diego is a better place, at this moment, than the South Side of Chicago."

But Peavy has nothing against Chicago, especially the North Side.

"He likes the city of Chicago very much, and I think he's said that publicly and privately," Axelrod said. "He's been pretty open about wanting to stay in the National League and has expressed those preferences pretty clearly."

Axelrod had nothing but praise for White Sox GM Kenny Williams, but he resents the fact that after he negotiated a no-trade clause into a contract for Peavy his client can be made to look like a prima donna.

"The deal was made first and then the player was asked if he was interested, instead of the other way around," Axelrod said. "I don't think he looks bad, because the White Sox handled this very professionally. But the entire process was unfair.

"This is difficult enough to do in the off-season, but it's very hard to go through during the season, and we're not going to go on like this indefinitely.

"If something's going to happen, we'd like it soon so Jake can get on with his life."

The Padres don't want to hand Peavy - and a possible NL pennant - to their neighbors to the North.

So that leaves the Cubs, who have been Peavy's top choice all along.

But the clock is ticking.

Tom Ricketts doesn't deserve this, but if he doesn't give Hendry the go-ahead soon, Peavy might wind up with one of the Cubs' chief NL rivals.

Or, even worse for Cubs fans, on the South Side of Chicago.

brozner@dailyherald.com