It doesn't seem so inevitable anymore.
As the clock ticked down toward the final hours before the two key principles, the Cubs and San Diego Padres, exit the winter meetings, these teams appear to be no closer to a deal than they were 24 hours ago.
And since Padres GM Kevin Towers has already announced he needs to know before he leaves whether there's a deal there to be made, that means this long march could be leading them nowhere at all.
According to two sources with knowledge of the discussions, the Cubs have dug in firmly on what they're willing to give up. And when you think through their side of this, you can understand why.
• Towers has already announced that the Cubs are the only team he's still talking to about Peavy.
• The Cubs have agreed to take on all $63 million that Peavy is guaranteed over the next four years, which usually means some sort of discount for the team absorbing the money.
• And Peavy or no Peavy, the Cubs are going to have the best rotation in their division.
So unlike the Padres' negotiations with the Braves last month, this time it seems to be the team on the other end -- i.e., the Cubbies -- that believes it has the leverage.
Now add in all the other complications we've been discussing ad nauseum -- the Cubs' uncertain ownership situation, their need to dump payroll to add a player this pricey and their simultaneous pursuit of a left-handed outfield bat. And what do you have?
You have a puzzle that seems to be getting harder to put together, not easier. That's what.
But wait. There are still more complications.
Mark DeRosa, who originally loomed as the potential key to the three-team part of this equation, no longer appears to be a player the Cubs particularly want to trade -- not in this deal, anyway.
Since word leaked out that DeRosa might be available, the Cubs have been bombarded with calls from other clubs interested in DeRosa. So some of those teams report that Cubs GM Jim Hendry is telling them he might deal DeRosa separately, but he doesn't really want to deal him at all. So that, said one source, "has opened up a whole 'nother can of worms."
The Cubs have told teams they can't afford to give up DeRosa unless they're confident they can add a left-handed-hitting outfield bat to balance out their lineup. They then would move a second left-handed hitter, Mike Fontenot, to second base to replace DeRosa.
But there are no indications the Cubs are close to acquiring any outfielders. So in a perfect world, they wouldn't market DeRosa until they knew they could fill their other hole. But given the Padres' time pressures, that may not be feasible.
It's still possible, the sources said, that DeRosa could wind up in the Peavy trade. But the Cubs no longer seem motivated to help arrange the package to satisfy the third team in the deal, which is still believed to be the Phillies.
The Cubs' stance now, apparently, is that it should be up to the Padres to make a straight-up deal with the Cubs and then find a way to make the third team happy.
But despite all these hang-ups, the two teams continue to talk. And despite all the obstacles, there is still mutual interest in making this happen, from all accounts.
Can they make it happen fast enough, however? That may be the critical question.
"I don't know the answer to that," one source said. "If it's not done by [Thursday] and we don't think we can move forward by the time we leave, then I guess [the Padres] have a decision to make."
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com.