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There's only one way to describe Jake Peavy's presence on the Padres' roster heading into Opening Day: awkward. Oh, there are no strains between the 2007 NL Cy Young winner and the team that drafted him in 1999 and helped him develop into an ace, at least publicly.
But there is also little reason to think that he will be wearing a Padres uniform by the end of the season.
Peavy was the subject of a swirl of trade rumors all winter long, first with the Braves in the early stages of the offseason, and then with the Cubs at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and beyond. Those rumors aren't about to stop just because San Diego has a few baseball games it supposedly cares about winning in the coming months.
It is hardly unusual for a star veteran on a rebuilding team to get moved at the trading deadline. It is even less rare for a player to come into a season knowing it will be his last with the only team he has ever known. Such are the realities of free agency and modern baseball.
It is, however, more and more of an oddity for a star-caliber player to enter a season knowing full well he will finish it with a different team. A few of the game's best players seem to get dealt around the deadline every year. Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia were moved in 2008, but the Braves had designs of contention and the Indians fell one game short of the World Series the year before.
While both were due to be free agents at year's end, neither could have expected to be traded at midseason, much less be as certain as Peavy is right now that he only has a handful of starts left in Petco Park.
That says plenty about the parity in baseball that Bud Selig has so proudly trumpeted over the last few years. The advent of the wild card and revenue sharing have made it so that at least 2/3rds of major league teams, if not more, can prepare for Opening Day feeling like they at least have a chance to play deep into October.
But that, in turn, is a statement about where the Padres are right now. It was only 18 months ago that Matt Holliday slid into home plate at Coors Field in extra innings (safely or not) and kept San Diego from the postseason in a one-game playoff. From 2004-07, they had a winning record every year and won a pair of division titles.
But last year, they lost 99 games, and now the franchise is in flux. Owner John Moores -- coming off of a bitter divorce -- is gradually ceding control of the club to Jeff Moorad, slashing payroll in the process.
That makes Peavy a bit of a relic of good times past. There isn't an ugly situation looming (though his full no-trade clause doesn't make it any easier to swing a deal), and there's no reason to think he will perform poorly in his final few months with the Padres, but Peavy is still owed $61 million over the next four seasons. With an organization that is thin everywhere -- as San Diego is -- there is no room for an expensive jewel like him.
No, Peavy is the baseball equivalent of a live-in ex-girlfriend. The breakup was amicable. Both parties have decided to move on with their lives. Only there are a few months left on the apartment they were leasing together. They might as well stick it out for now.
The right-hander is about to get a new lease on life, heading the rotation of some contending team down the stretch. The last superstar player to be in a similar situation (great player on a bad team facing a certain trade during the season) was Carlos Beltran, and he worked miracles for the Astros in 2004.
As for the Padres, well, even Beltran's team back then, the Royals, has a sliver of hope heading into 2009. But it's only a sliver. San Diego is one of the few major league cities that need not worry about red, white and blue bunting or even consider the possibility of a parade in late October/early November.
It's going to be a long road back.