Can Cubs Still Land Peavy?

Although obtaining a starting pitcher is not the top priority of the Cubs, general manager Jim Hendry won't give up on getting right-hander Jake Peavy from the Padres.

But the biggest obstacle to adding any major players for 2009 is the budget. After a two-year unbridled spending spree, the Cubs are up against the budgetary wall when it comes to player payroll.

Part of it is the ongoing sale of the club, which won't be finalized until sometime in 2009, and the financial straits the current owner (the Tribune Co.) finds itself in.

That means the Cubs are going to have to be creative both with players and money if they want Peavy. On the money end, the Cubs probably will have to find a taker for right-hander Jason Marquis, who has one year and $9,875,000 left on his three-year, $21 million deal.

The Marquis problem is indicative of what the Cubs will face in the near future because of many back-loaded contracts. It's also quite likely the Cubs will have to eat part of Marquis' contract.

On the player front, the Cubs may not have the major league-ready young talent the Padres apparently want for Peavy. Third baseman Josh Vitters, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 2007, is likely to go in any Peavy deal, but he's at least two years away from the big leagues and the Cubs don't have much in the way of minor-leaguers knocking at the big-league door. Hendry may have to find a third team to help him facilitate a trade with the Padres for Peavy.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Bob Howry, a mainstay of the bullpen since 2006, has likely seen his last days with the Cubs. The Cubs won't offer the free agent reliever salary arbitration. They hope RHPs Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija can step in and fill the void left by Howry late in games over three largely up-and-down seasons.

--LHP Rich Hill has done nothing to help himself in winter ball; the Cubs' No. 4 starter at the beginning of the 2008 season and seemingly a rising star was sent to the minor leagues in early May and never returned. In Venezuela this winter, he was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA through his first six starts. He had walked 19 and struck out 15 in 19 1/3 innings.

--RHP Angel Guzman is making an early case to make the club out of spring training. In Venezuela, Guzman was 2-1 with a 4.62 ERA in six starts. Guzman, who turns 27 on Dec. 14, is a one-time phenom who has battled shoulder and elbow problems for most of his career. He spent much of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery but wound up pitching in six games for the big club. He could stick as a long man out of the bullpen next spring.

--RHP Kerry Wood is likely to be offered salary arbitration by the Cubs after all, despite the club's earlier stance that it was done with Wood, who saved 34 games this year. If Wood accepts the offer, he's automatically back for 2009 and would give the Cubs a back end of a bullpen that also includes RHPs Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.

--LHP Sean Marshall won't be a part of any trade with the Kansas City Royals for OF Mark Teahen, club sources have said. Reports surfaced that the Cubs would trade Marshall and INF Mike Fontenot to the Royals for Teahen. The Cubs are lukewarm on Teahen, and they certainly would not give up both Marshall and Fontenot to get him. The Cubs see Marshall as a candidate for the rotation in 2009 and Fontenot as someone who can contribute with his bat from the left side of the plate.

INSIDE THE NUMB3RS: 74 -- Walks drawn by 3B Aramis Ramirez in 2008, shattering his personal best by 24. Ramirez drew 50 walks in 2006 for the Cubs but was among several Chicago players who developed more selectivity at the plate in 2008.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Starting we don't need. We've got six good starters, and they're all experienced." -- Manager Lou Piniella, to the Chicago Sun-Times on whether the Cubs were still interested in Peavy. The front office may have other ideas.

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