Deadline day went like clockwork for the Padres

San Diego had a lot on its plate leading up to Friday's non-waiver trade deadline. The deal sending Jake Peavy to the White Sox came together with just minutes to spare.

August 02, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

SAN DIEGO — On the West Coast, you're on the clock from the moment you wake up.

The trade deadline hits at 1 p.m. our time, time enough for a cup of coffee and a few hours of chaos.

Kevin Towers, the general manager of the San Diego Padres, awoke Friday at 6 a.m. He had been at his Petco Park office until midnight, and he was back in the office at 7 a.m.

Six hours to the deadline, and Towers thought he had a pretty good idea of what might happen. He might trade first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, closer Heath Bell, starter Kevin Correia -- maybe one of them, maybe two, maybe all three.

He did trade one guy: Jake Peavy, who had not pitched in seven weeks, to the team to which he already had rejected a trade, in a buzzer-beater of a deal.

"It was," Towers said, "a crazy morning."

This would be the perfect marriage of the MLB Network and reality television: Show us the war room of a major league team in the hours preceding the trade deadline.

In San Diego, this was not Towers in seclusion. This was another kind of Padres team: Towers, assistants Paul DePodesta and Fred Uhlman, player development executives Grady Fuson and Jeff Kingston, chief financial officer Fred Gerson, club President Tom Garfinkel and managing partner Jeff Moorad.

Towers did all the talking for the Padres, switching from one communication device to another faster than a Peavy fastball.

"Cell, text, cell, regular phone," he said.

With each call, Towers might direct one person in the room to the big grease board on the wall, to erase a trade proposal that had died, to revise one that remained alive, to add a new one.

With each text, Towers might direct another person in the room to rush to a computer, to pull up the scouting reports on prospects just proposed by another team.

"It's almost comical," he said. "I wish we had a video camera in there. You tend to worry about everything moving so fast."

As the clock passed 11 a.m. and headed toward noon, Towers furiously juggled his calls and texts.

He had seven teams calling on Bell, most seriously the Dodgers and Angels. He had three teams calling on Gonzalez, and he even talked about a blockbuster that would have sent Bell and Gonzalez to the Dodgers. He had two teams calling on Correia.

At 11:30 a.m., the general manager of the Chicago White Sox called.

"I haven't heard from you," Kenny Williams told Towers. "What do you have going on?"

Bell, Gonzalez, Correia.

"Would you still discuss Jake?" Williams asked.

That would be Peavy, the guy who vetoed a trade to the White Sox in May. Towers had wondered whether any team would sneak in a bid for his injured ace, and the one team that did was the one to which Peavy had said no.

So Towers called Barry Axelrod, Peavy's agent. Axelrod said he would ask Peavy about the White Sox and get right back to Towers.

In the meantime, there were other deals to tend to. Around noon, the Dodgers and Padres agreed the blockbuster would not work, but perhaps a trade for Bell alone might.

That did not work. The Angels and Padres also could not find a match for Bell. At 12:15, the Texas Rangers called, wanting in on Bell.

Towers told his colleagues to pull the scouting reports on the names the Rangers had offered, and then he realized he had not heard back from Axelrod.

"There was panic a little on our side," Towers said.

Turned out Peavy had turned off his cellphone. He was sleeping. Axelrod had raced to Peavy's home.

Axelrod finally got back to Towers at 12:20. Peavy would not veto this trade.

That left a precious few minutes for the Padres and White Sox to actually make the trade.

"The last 30 minutes was basically the lightning round," Towers said.

It didn't take long for Towers and Williams to agree on what players the Padres would get for Peavy, since Williams essentially put the package agreed upon in May back on the table.

But that was not all: The trainers from each team had to exchange medical records. The White Sox had to review and accept the insurance policy on Peavy's contract. They also agreed to sweeten the deal for Peavy with air fare and accommodations for his family. The Padres had to notify the commissioner's office that he had waived his no-trade clause.

The White Sox agreed to pick up all of the $55 million left on Peavy's contract. If the Padres had picked up even $1 million, the consent of the commissioner's office would have been required.

"If there were dollars exchanged, this would have never happened," Towers said.

At 12:55, the Rangers called again on Bell, and Towers told them he could not talk.

At 12:58, the Peavy deal was approved.

Towers got back to the Rangers. The two teams resumed trade talks, but the commissioner's office would not waive the 1 p.m. deadline.

So the Padres exhaled. They had kept their most popular player and their All-Star closer, and they had emerged from perhaps the wildest day of the season.

Or perhaps not. There is another deadline day coming soon.

Every team, including the Padres, faces an Aug. 17 deadline to sign their draft picks. The Padres' top pick, outfielder Donavan Tate, is represented by baseball's most powerful agent, Scott Boras.

Those negotiations figure to extend to the final hours too. The way Towers tells it, getting the Peavy trade done might have been the easy part.

"That was the PSAT we took," Towers said, "before the actual SAT on Aug. 17."


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