Peavy drawing much interest from Cubs (AP)
While general manager Jim Hendry still has adding a left-handed hitter on his to-do list, he wrapped up the recent GM meetings in hot pursuit of a right-handed starting pitcher.
Hendry is highly interested in Padres ace Jake Peavy, and he held several discussions with Padres GM Kevin Towers during the meetings.
Several factors come into play here. First, Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster has filed for free agency, and Peavy is seen as a hedge against Dempster leaving. Second, the Cubs still have some money to play with even though the team has been for sale since Opening Day of 2007.
Peavy has a guaranteed $63 million coming through the 2012 season, and the Cubs seem to think that's no object, especially if they can trade right-hander Jason Marquis and all or part of his $9.25 million for 2009.
If the Cubs can land Peavy, and it may take four young players, and keep Dempster as well, they'd have a formidable rotation that also includes Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly.
The general managers meetings ended in Dana Point, Calif., on Nov. 6 with both Peavy and shortstop Khalil Greene still Padres.
But that doesn't mean they will be Padres come 2009.
Towers didn't think a trade would be completed at the GM meetings. And he doesn't believe the pair can be packaged.
"If we end up moving Khalil, he probably would be in a separate deal from Peavy," said Towers.
The Padres believe the best suitors for Peavy to be the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. Peavy, who has total no-trade control in the contract extension he received last year, has given the Padres permission to talk to five teams on his behalf, including St. Louis and Houston.
But Towers does not believe a match exists with Houston, and St. Louis has said it is not interested in Peavy. The 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner has said he prefers to remain in the National League, but he might be open to a trade to the Yankees.
--C Henry Blanco had his $3 million option declined by the Cubs, and he became a free agent. The Cubs would like to have the 37-year-old back, but at a significantly lower salary. Blanco was a valuable mentor to Geovany Soto and had his best year at the plate, hitting .292 with three homers in 58 games.
--If the Cubs and Blanco can't agree to a new deal, it's likely they'll allow Koyie Hill to compete for the backup spot behind Rookie of the Year candidate Soto. Hill saw time with the Cubs this year and in 2007. He's a switch hitter who specializes in defense and handling pitchers, much as Blanco did.
--LHP Rich Hill is pitching winter ball in Venezuela and having an up-and-down time of it. Hill opened the 2008 season as the Cubs' No. 4 starter, but command problems, which began in spring training, forced him to the minor leagues in early May. Hill still figures into the Cubs' plans if he can work things out. However, he had 13 walks and a 6.28 ERA over his first four winter starts, in which he was 1-1.
--RHP Angel Guzman reportedly is hitting upward of 97 mph on his fastball during winter ball in Venezuela. Guzman, who has been hampered by injuries for several years, will be out of options next spring. If he's healthy, he could land a bullpen spot.
--CF Felix Pie has begun winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Pie was the Cubs' Opening Day center fielder before losing his job and ending up in the minor leagues. There is a chance Pie could share time with Reed Johnson in center field next year, but there's also a chance he could be traded. Pie batted .241 in 43 games with the Cubs in 2008.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- The Cubs used 10 starting pitchers in 2008, including RHPs Jon Lieber and Angel Guzman, who made only one start each. Given the health problems of Zambrano and Harden and the possible departure of Dempster via free agency, the pursuit of Peavy has shot to the top Hendry's priority list.
HE SAID IT: "It's not a club to overhaul. It's a club to just do your best to make it better by the time you get to spring training and try to address some of the things that look like needs. It always starts with trying to keep your pitching solid." -- Hendry, on his approach to the offseason.