The Cubs Convention opened with talk of the 2009 payroll being filled and Jim Hendry looking for a modest-level fifth-starter type to fill out his rotation. But when it ended with the trade of Felix Pie to the Orioles for the pitcher - Garrett Olson - who Kevin Towers was steering toward San Diego as part if a three-team Jake Peavy deal, the Peavy blip on the Chicago radar was beeping again.
Cubs insiders say there's no direct correlation here - that Sunday's trade doesn't signal a return to focusing on Peavy. Pie was out of options and needed to be moved, regardless, with Baltimore a team with interest and a reasonable trade match.
But it's an intriguing coincidence that this is happening at a time when Sam Zell is said to be close to narrowing his three-bidder field for the Cubs to one - a crossroads that could lead to an imminent new ownership group approving Jake-ing the payroll up to accommodate Peavy and the $63 million guaranteed the next four years on his contract.
While negotiations in early December broke down over San Diego's high demands and the Cubs' concerns over 2010 payroll considerations, the '09 payroll is just as big a concern these days, short of approval for an increase from new owners.
And as for those high demands by Padres GM Towers, who was seeking a pitching-heavy, 5-for-1 deal, the Cubs are in far greater position to meet those demands.
First, they've added five young pitchers to the inventory with the 3-for-1 deal with Cleveland for Mark DeRosa and the 2-for-1 for Pie that included a pitcher known to interest Towers. It was Towers, after all, who did all the maneuvering with the Orioles that set the Pie-for-Olson ball rolling nearly two months ago.
All the pieces certainly appear in place.
But let's be clear about this: The Cubs have no appetite for anything like the Brian Roberts water-torture situation they faced with the Orioles that dragged into the final week if spring training.
This time around, if they get the nod to raise payroll from its $140 million level this year, and enough to accommodate Peavy in the coming years as well, then a deal could conceivably get done in a matter of days.
That, of course, assumes the Padres still want to deal even with their own ownership change looming. But with little chance to contend in the next year or two - even in the crappy NL West - the Padres might be well served to still seek that pitching-heavy 5-for-1 for their ace.
The biggest risk in any such deal for the Cubs is Peavy's health over the four-year term of his hefty contract - five years at $81 million if his option year is exercised as part of the deal - is the health of a Cy Young Award winner who has been shut down in recent years twice each for elbow and shoulder problems.
But right now, this year, at this moment of championship opportunity for the Cubs, with every other off-season need already addressed, this could be the single missing piece toward that certain thing that's been missing on the North Side for 100 years.