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After last week’s bizarre revelation that the Chicago Cubs were just one of two teams in serious pursuit of starting pitcher Pedro Martinez, it was only a matter of time before Pedro started claiming he was close to signing, and the Cubs started denying they were close to signing.

Cue it up.

The Cubs haven’t made Pedro Martinez an offer, and it’s doubtful they have room in the payroll or the major leagues’ top-ranked starting rotation to pull off such a move anytime soon.

But they scouted the three-time Cy Young Award winner during the World Baseball Classic in the spring and more recently in the Dominican Republic, and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry sounded impressed with the reports.

According to an Associated Press report from the Dominican, Martinez, 39, said Wednesday that he has talked to the Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays and ”there’s a good chance I’ll be signing soon, but there still isn’t anything firm.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

For a team with the best starting pitching in baseball, no fewer than six effective starting pitchers, and an offensive that can only be described as pathetiterrible, taking a relatively expensive flier on an aging, injury-riddled starting pitcher seems… strange.

The 17-year veteran, who pitched for the New York Mets last season, told the AP that his agent is negotiating with both teams and that he wants to sign with the team that has the best chance of winning a pennant.

He was said to be seeking a $5 million contract as recently as late April. Even a prorated version of that kind of deal could be hard to fit in the Cubs’ payroll. But any sign of injury to the starting rotation could add urgency to the Cubs’ interest.

”Certainly, we’ve got a lot of respect for him, and he’s got a great history,” Hendry said.

Perhaps the Cubs know something about their starters that we don’t. Perhaps Hendry is looking to sign Martinez with an option for 2010, which would allow him to deal a starter next year and clear payroll (or simply replace the departing Rich Harden) if Martinez is healthy.

I’m just throwing stuff out there at this point, because it makes no sense at all for a team with the best starting pitching in baseball, the worst hitting in the universe, and no extra money to be scouting and nearly signing a guy like Pedro Martinez.

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