The Yankees' Brian Cashman and Padres' Kevin Towers discussed Padres right-hander Jake Peavy at the general managers' meetings earlier this month in Dana Point, Calif.

"Right now, I need to stay focused with National League clubs," Towers told Cashman. "If I'm not able to get close with any of them, I'll circle back to you."

Well, Towers is officially circling, and the Yankees remain interested in Peavy, despite their apparent plan to buy every top free-agent pitcher by the end of the weekend.

The teams already have had "numerous discussions" about Peavy, according to a major-league source.

A Peavy trade, however, would be more complicated for the Yankees than it would be for his preferred National League clubs, the Braves and Cubs. For starters, Peavy -- who holds a full no-trade clause -- might not want to play in New York.

And the Yankees, after trading five young pitchers in recent deals for Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte, might simply prefer to spend on free agents.

Ditto for the Angels, whose first priority is to re-sign first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Angels will pursue an elite starting pitcher if they fail to keep Teixeira, but their agenda rarely includes trading young talent.

So, the waiting game continues.

Towers, in comments to the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, said he did not see "a potential deal" with either the Braves and Cubs, raising the possibility that he would open the process to the Yankees and Angels.

The Braves responded Friday by pulling out of the Peavy discussions.

The Cubs are still in but also are trying to re-sign right-hander Ryan Dempster, a move that could end their pursuit of Peavy.

Peavy continues to express a "strong preference" for the N.L., according to his agent, Barry Axelrod. To waive his no-trade clause for an A.L. club, the pitcher almost certainly would require a significant financial inducement, among other contractual goodies.

Before even reaching that point, the Yankees would need to satisfy the Padres, who would not accept a package from the Braves headed by shortstop Yunel Escobar, perhaps the best player they could receive in any trade.

The Angels might be an easier sell to Peavy Padres manager Bud Black, when he was the Angels' pitching coach, commuted from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., north of San Diego, to the Angels' park in Anaheim.

But for Peavy, Angels vs. Yankees wouldn't be that simple.

"From a geographic perspective, the Angels probably would be more appealing," Axelrod said. "From other perspectives, they might be less appealing. Geography probably will be one of 20 factors."

Perhaps, in the end, Towers simply wants to wait out the Braves, figuring they might not sign any of their top free-agent targets Lowe, Burnett and Dempster.

It's still only Nov. 15. This thing appears a long way from over.


The Angels' four-corners strategy
The Yankees made no secret of their offer to Sabathia. The Dodgers took a similarly aggressive approach with Manny Ramirez.

The Angels, on the other hand, have yet to extend a formal proposal to Teixeira, major-league sources say.

Their strategy appears to make sense.

Scott Boras, the agent for Ramirez as well as Teixeira, rejected and even disparaged the Dodgers' offer to Ramirez, saying he intended to field more "serious" proposals once the market opened.

The Dodgers have since withdrawn their offer, widely reported to be two years and $45 million, though they plan to continue discussions with Boras.

The situations with the two Los Angeles teams are different the Dodgers wanted to show their fans that they indeed would make a sincere bid for Ramirez. The Angels, though, have given Boras nothing to reject, nothing to disparage, nothing to bring other clubs.

The Yankees did just that with Boras when they signed another of his free-agent clients, outfielder Johnny Damon, in Dec. 2005.


The Jays: Waiting on A.J.
The Yankees' stated intention to make Burnett an offer combined with interest from the Orioles, Braves and possibly the Red Sox and other clubs does not bode well for the Blue Jays' chances of keeping the right-hander.

"Realistically, we know teams will be able to afford more dollars than we're able to afford," Jays G.M. J.P. Ricciardi said.

"The biggest thing is, he's had success with us. He likes it here. How important is it for him to stay? (Roy) Halladay and (Vernon) Wells decided that Toronto was a place they wanted to stay.

"We know we won't be the highest bidder. But we offer things that maybe some other people don't."

Burnett enjoys a strong relationship with Halladay, Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and the team's training staff. The expectations on him again would rise if he signed with another club.

One problem for the Jays: The last time they signed Burnett as a free agent, they awarded Halladay an extension just months later. They almost certainly would try to follow the same course if they kept Burnett, which ultimately could limit their final offer.

If the Jays lose Burnett?

"At that point, we may just re-evaluate where we're at," Ricciardi said. "The economy is not good. I don't know if we were going to be a player on some things."

Dempster, a native of Canada, would be an obvious target, but Ricciardi said, "We probably would have to blow him away to get him out of Chicago."


Setup men in demand
The free-agent market includes four top closers Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman and Kerry Wood but few quality setup men.

Which is why three highly regarded relievers righty Juan Cruz and lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Joe Beimel could be among the first free agents to sign new contracts.

The Indians are mulling whether to enter the closer market or perhaps try to lock up both Cruz and Affeldt.

The Giants, expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of setup help, could make a pre-emptive bid for Cruz.

The Phillies also like Cruz and intend to make one of their strengths the bullpen even stronger. The departure of Tom Gordon as a free agent will create an opening.

Affeldt and Beimel, meanwhile, are certain to draw attention from the Cardinals, who could seek to add two lefty relievers.


Around the horn
The Cubs' interest in free-agent left-hander Randy Johnson isn't difficult to explain: Johnson is 11-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 12 career starts against the Cubs, 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four career starts at Wrigley Field. The likelihood that Johnson will sign only a one-year contract adds to his appeal...

The Dodgers pursued a trade for shortstop Orlando Cabrera during the season, and could renew its interest in Cabrera if they lose Rafael Furcal as a free agent. Blake DeWitt could move back from second to third base if Casey Blake departs as a free agent. Second baseman Orlando Hudson, targeted by numerous clubs, would be a good fit � but the Dodgers need to spend in too many other areas ...

Rival clubs believe the White Sox would trade closer Bobby Jenks, but the glut of free-agent closers combined with concerns over Jenks' weight, makeup, rising salaries and declining strikeout rates will reduce the demand. Jenks was 30-for-34 in save opportunities with a career-best 2.63 ERA last season, but his strikeouts per nine innings have declined from 10.34 to 7.75 to 5.55 in his three full major-league seasons...

The Yankees' interest in Teixeira diminished after they acquired Nick Swisher but could revive if they fail to land the free-agent starting pitchers they desire and if Teixeira is willing to accept a four- or five-year contract with a high average salary. Teixeira said during the season that he wanted a 10-year deal...

Few scouts believe that Jeff Marquez will turn into another Gavin Floyd for the White Sox, but some view Marquez as a potential No. 4 starter. Jhonny Nunez, whom the Sox acquired along with Marquez in the Swisher deal, could develop into a quality bullpen piece for a championship club, one scout said.

And finally, how did Indians left-hander Cliff Lee celebrate winning the American League Cy Young Award? By working out for 2 1/2 hours, according to his agent, Darek Braunecker. Lee got itchy to hit the gym after conducting his media interviews, Braunecker said. It's that type of work ethic that separates ordinary pitchers from Cy Young winners.
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