Cubs make bold move in Peavy sweepstakes

The Chicago Cubs have leapt to the forefront of the Jake Peavy trade discussion, though the San Diego Padres are continuing to talk with the Atlanta Braves in hopes of extracting a better package, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday night.

The Padres continue to angle for Atlanta's top pitching prospect, Tommy Hanson, to sweeten a package that could include shortstop Yunel Escobar and outfielder Jordan Schafer or Gorkys Hernandez. They had hoped for the Cubs to include pitcher Jeff Samardzija as part of a deal that could include outfielder Felix Pie, pitcher Sean Marshall and infielder Ronny Cedeno, but Samardzija has a full no-trade clause that he has no intent on giving up, said his agent, Mark Rodgers.

"Under no circumstances are we going to waive the no-trade provisions," Rodgers said Friday.

The Cubs are tinkering with other players – pitcher Kevin Hart, minor-league pitcher Donnie Veal and, according to various reports, perhaps top hitting prospect Josh Vitters and minor leaguers Mitch Atkins, Wellington Castillo and Jose Ceda.

The inclusion of Samardzija could have motivated the Padres to complete a deal. As he left the general managers’ meetings in Dana Point, Calif., on Thursday, Padres GM Kevin Towers told a small group of reporters that he planned on trading Peavy before the winter meetings, which start Dec. 7.

"The train's kind of left the station," Towers said.

Peavy, who won the National League Cy Young in 2006, agreed to waive his no-trade clause for seven teams: Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis, both Los Angeles teams and the New York Yankees. Towers said the talks are down to three NL teams; Houston, with its bereft farm system, is not that third team, said a source, who indicated that the Padres have asked the Dodgers for a prohibitive package, since it would be an intradivision deal.

San Diego, eager to trim its payroll after the messy divorce of owner John Moores, is trying to amp up demand for the 27-year-old Peavy despite its limited pool of partners. Peavy, who went 10-11 with a 2.85 earned-run average last season and missed seven starts with an elbow injury, is an attractive option for teams without the financial wherewithal to chase CC Sabathia.

While Sabathia is likely to get a $140 million-plus deal on the free-agent market, Peavy is signed for the next four years at $60 million, with a $22 million option for 2013 that he could ask teams to pick up as part of waiving the no-trade clause.

Pie, once the Cubs' top prospect, struggled without regular playing time and would fit perfectly in San Diego's spacious outfield. And with the Padres trying to shed shortstop Khalil Greene's contract, too, Cedeno is a ready-made replacement while Marshall would step into the rotation.

Still, one source said the Padres would prefer Hanson above them all. The 22-year-old threw a no-hitter at Double-A start last season and has scouts raving at his Arizona Fall League performance. Packaged with Escobar and Schafer, it would likely land Peavy in Atlanta, five hours from his hometown of Mobile, Ala.

The Cubs are preparing for the possibility of starter Ryan Dempster leaving via free agency. He is angling for a five-year deal and is part of a strong starting-pitching class that includes Sabathia, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett, who is represented by Rodgers.

"All the teams we hoped to be involved are going to be involved," Rodgers said of Burnett, who opted out of his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the week. "We'll wait the 15 days (until Toronto's exclusive negotiating window expires) and then start talking specifics."