Frustrated in their attempts to land outfielders this offseason, the San Diego Padres are deep into discussions with the Pittsburgh Pirates about a multiplayer deal that would be centered around All-Star outfielder Jason Bay.
The Padres still have some financial flexibility, after trying and failing to sign Andruw Jones and Kosuke Fukodome, and they have some prospects to deal, such as infielder Chase Headley, a second-round pick from the 2005 draft. San Diego may also consider dealing catcher Michael Barrett, who surprised the Padres last week by accepting their offer of arbitration -- an offer that the Padres made with the hope of recouping a draft pick.
San Diego may also have interest in right-hander Matt Morris, a 33-year-old right-hander acquired by the Pirates in the last minutes before the July 31 trade deadline. Morris, who went 10-11 with a 4.89 ERA last summer for the Giants and Pirates and is 121-88 in his career, has one year remaining on his current contract, for $9.5 million, and there is an option year for 2009, with a $1 million buyout.
Bay, 29, is coming off a year in which he hit 21 homers with 84 RBIs, but saw a decline in his average from .286 in 2006 to .247 in 2007. Bay had a his best power year in 2006, when he slammed 35 homers and drove in 109 runs. There is some concern, executives say, with the condition of Bay's knee.
Bay began his career in the Expos organization and was traded to the Mets organization. In 2002, the Mets traded him to San Diego, along with two other players, for Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook. Little more than a year later, the Padres swapped Bay, Oliver Perez and a player to be named to the Pirates for outfielder Brian Giles.
Now the Padres are desperate for outfielders, because Giles just had microfracture knee surgery, and Mike Cameron filed for free agency. The Padres made an aggressive bid for Fukodome, and now, with Fukodome headed to the Cubs, the Padres' Plan B may well turn out to be their deal for Bay, which they have felt they could make for some time.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.