After spending four days at the annual general managers' meetings, Padres GM Kevin Towers said it is unlikely the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner will remain with San Diego, which signed him out of high school in 1999.
"The train's kind of left the station," Towers said Thursday.
Guaranteed $63 million under a contract that runs through 2012, Peavy is relatively inexpensive when compared with what CC Sabathia is likely to get on the free-agent market. The right-hander also has a no-trade clause, so he can determine where he winds up.
"We're not in control of the speed or the train," Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, said in a telephone interview. "The only thing we've got is a brake."
Peavy's initial list of teams San Diego should concentrate on included Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs, Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis. The Braves, Cubs and Dodgers appear to be the most likely candidates for a trade.
Towers, cutting payroll following a last-place finish, anticipates a trade before the winter meetings open in Las Vegas on Dec. 8. Given the paucity of pitching, the 27-year-old is highly prized. He was 10-11 with a 2.85 ERA in 27 starts last season.
"We're not to the point where we've agreed on who the players are coming back. We just have an idea of who's available to us and who's not," Towers said. "Now it's just a matter of looking at three priority teams that are involved and trying to figure out what our optimum deal is. Some of them involve third teams and potentially fourth teams, so it becomes a little more complicated."
At last year's GM meetings, Philadelphia acquired closer Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett from Houston for outfielder Michael Bourn, pitcher Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo, a deal that helped the Phillies win the World Series for the first time since 1980. Florida held trade talks on third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was dealt to Detroit along with Dontrelle Willis at the winter meetings.
There were no trades at this year's gathering, with talks more cautious. That's because this year's free-agent class includes stars such as Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez.
"The premium guys this year seem to be better than last year," said Mets GM Omar Minaya, whose biggest move last offseason was to acquire ace pitcher Johan Santana from Minnesota. "You'd rather do a free-agent deal than a trade, if possible, because with a free agent you don't have to give up prospects. And the way it is now, everybody is trying to keep their prospects."
Minaya needs a closer because Billy Wagner is expected to miss all of next season following elbow surgery. K-Rod and Brian Fuentes are the top two among free agents, and both will sign eight-figure contracts. Free agents can start negotiating money with all teams starting Nov. 14.
Dodgers manager Ned Colletti made the biggest news of the meetings when he said Los Angeles offered Ramirez a deal with the second-highest average salary in baseball. That would put the mercurial outfielder between Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million) and Santana ($22.9 million).
Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, is known for protracted negotiations. Colletti wouldn't speculate on whether anything was accomplished at the pricey resort hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
"Groundwork, to me, means that you're starting to build something that'll work," he said. "I never know that until the thing's built."
Colorado outfielder Matt Holliday, another Boras client, appeared at the hotel and sparked speculation that the Rockies will try to trade him before he can become a free agent next November.
Brian Cashman, general manager of the high-spending Yankees, is concentrating on starting pitching after a third-place finish that ended his team's streak of 13 postseason appearances. Sabathia is likely their No. 1 target.
"We generally expressed our interest in the players that we would love to have join us, and then see where that takes us," Cashman said. "Everybody will express interest back, and some will be more real than others."