Difficult choices

Ryan Klesko is on the block but doesn't want to be. Ditto Phil Nevin. But what happens when the San Diego Padres construct a deal to a pennant-chasing team? Will the team be on Nevin's list or will Klesko refuse to go?

The Padres would like to trade either Ryan Klesko or Phil Nevin this winter to hasten a reshaping of their club that would meet the wide-open confines of Petco Park.

But sources close to the club say moving either will be difficult ... although Nevin's agent, Barry Axelrod, has supplied the Padres with the list of 21 teams to which Nevin would have to accept a trade.

"We tried to figure out the most likely possibilities to where Phil could go," Axelrod said. "Our hope is that by eliminating those eight clubs, we eliminated most of the other possibilities."

The problem is that both are first basemen -- although Klesko played in left last season, hurting the Padres defense.

Klesko, 33, has a no-trade contract that guarantees him $10 million in 2005 and $10.5 million in 2006. Since Klesko is coming off a season in which he hit .291 with only nine homers in 402 at-bats, it is even more doubtful that anyone would be interested in him at that cost. Klesko, however, had shoulder surgery in late 2003 and started to find his stroke again near the end of the 2004 season.

Nevin, 33, is due $18 million over the next two seasons. He hit .289 last season with 26 homers and led the Padres (for the fourth time) in RBI with 105.

It has been rumored that the Padres would even couple Nevin with third baseman Sean Burroughs to sweeten the deal. Meantime, Axelrod said Nevin has told the Padres Nevin would be willing to reduce the amount of his contract for 2005 and 2006 in return for a contract extension. The Padres refused the offer.

"Our hope is Phil will remain with the Padres," said Axelrod. "This is where he lives, this is where he wants to play."

But the Padres would do anything to add speed and range to their outfield, something they can't achieve if Nevin returns at first and Klesko is still in left. But general manager Kevin Towers said last week that he expects both to remain with San Diego.

"Phil's not somebody we're trying to push," said Towers. "He's the type of bat we need to be successful. We'd have a hard time replacing that bat."


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