Friars looking to collect extra chips

Friars looking to collect extra chips

LAS VEGAS -- There's not a whole lot of scenery on the nearly five-hour drive from San Diego to Las Vegas, which was probably a good thing for Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who has plenty of other things to distract him these days.

Towers drove to Las Vegas on Saturday to get a head start on the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday, and he no doubt spent part of his drive on I-15 ruminating over how to assemble a team on what figures to be a $40 million payroll, as well as, of course, what to do with Jake Peavy.

The Padres, coming off a 99-loss season, are staring straight at a payroll that could be nearly half of what it was a year ago, a roster in need of help and with a lot of questions tied to what the club might do -- or might not do -- with Peavy, the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Last week, San Diego traded shortstop Khalil Greene and his $6.5 million contract to St. Louis, a move Towers said might afford the Padres the opportunity to hang onto Peavy, who is still owed $63 million over the next four seasons.

There is also a prevailing thought as these Meetings begin that Towers and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry are trying to facilitate a deal to send Peavy to Chicago, which would require the assistance of a third team that could help make the deal happen and give the Padres the package of players they're looking for.

"With the Cubs, even though I have a great relationship with Jim, when they signed [Ryan] Dempster, it gave them another starting piece to their rotation," said Towers. "Peavy is probably now a luxury for them. It depends if they have the wherewithal to make it happen."

There have been rumors of a five-for-one deal with the Cubs and another team, a package that would land the Padres what they covet most -- pitching. Towers has said repeatedly this offseason that he wants Major League-ready pitching -- starters and relievers -- in any deal that involves Peavy.

"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. Most of our trade discussions have been about pitching."

If Towers doesn't like what he's offered, he's perfectly content to, before the end of the month, essentially pull Peavy off the trading block and go to Spring Training with him.

"If we had to start the season with Jake back in San Diego, we'd be more than happy to do that," Towers said. "Having moved Khalil's salary, it's going to have to be a deal [for Peavy] we're real comfortable with."

Because of their financial constraints, the Padres won't be in the running for any high-priced, or even moderately-priced, free agents, though they now need a shortstop because of Greene's sudden departure to St. Louis.

The Padres are also looking to add bullpen depth, a veteran backup catcher and other moves to give manager Bud Black better bench options. To address these needs, Towers knows that he'll be approached about several of the Padres' top young players, like catcher Nick Hundley as well as outfielder/third baseman Chase Headley. Towers, as he did a year ago, will likely decline the overtures, though he's not ruling out trading a position player to fill some voids.

"There are a couple of things in the works where we could move a position player for a pitcher," Towers said. "We've got some outfield depth we can move. We might be able to extract some pitching from other teams that way."

Towers also figures to take at least one player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, as the Padres will pick third and will almost certainly take a relief pitcher who could lend help to a bullpen that went from being the best in the Major Leagues in 2007 to one of the most inconsistent last season.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.