The San Diego Padres beat Rick Sutcliffe with the National League pennant on the line. Now they think he's a good bet to join them.

Padres General Manager Jack McKeon says so, after two days of meetings with the free agent right-hander coming off a Cy Young award season for the Chicago Cubs. The Padres have offered Sutcliffe a five-year contract.

"Rick has a genuine interest in playing here," McKeon said. "I think it's going to come down to two teams -- us or the Cubs."

In the NL championship series, Sutcliffe won Game 1, 13-0, but the Padres won decisive Game 5, which Sutcliffe started, 6-3.

Barry Axelrod, Sutcliffe's agent, said he also has bids from Kansas City and Atlanta. The Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Cardinals and Orioles also gained negotiating rights to Sutcliffe in the reentry draft two weeks ago.

"We'll talk to another couple of teams during the winter meetings (Dec. 3-7 in Houston)," Axelrod said . . .

Free-agent outfielder Fred Lynn has rejected a California Angels contract offer that called for a significant reduction in pay from his 1984 salary. The Angels said they were not optimistic about re-signing the nine-time all-star.

General Manager Mike Port said there is "not much room" for compromise in the proposal, turned down Wednesday by Lynn's agent, Jerry Kapstein.

Port said Kapstein also rejected an Angels offer to retain relief pitcher Don Aase. Because of his history of arm injuries, the Angels are unwilling to give Aase a multiyear contract.