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UPDATE: Paul Maholm spilled the beans on his (verified) Twitter account tonight, letting the world know that he was coming to the Cubs, and thanking Pirates fans for their support. The terms of the deal are yet unannounced, and his deal won’t be finalized until a corresponding 40-man roster move is made to open up a spot for him. Maholm says he’s looking forward to, among other things, the Cubs Convention this weekend.

Earlier:

Bruce Levine and Ken Rosenthal are reporting that the Chicago Cubs are working on signing 29-year-old lefty starter Paul Maholm, with Rosenthal saying a source tells him a deal is “close.”

There have been rumors of the Cubs bringing in Maholm for a while now, but the lefty apparently wanted to shop around a bit before settling in with the Cubs.

If the Cubs do sign Maholm, there are two matters of “space” to be considered. First, there is the 40-man roster, which currently stands at 40 (without Kerry Wood), though there are at least a couple arms who could be jettisoned if there isn’t a commensurate trade made to open up a spot for Maholm.

The second “space” issue is squarely in the Cubs’ rotation. Yes, Maholm is coming back from shoulder trouble, but there have been no indications that anyone is pursuing him as anything other than a starting pitcher. If that’s the case, the Cubs will have at least six sure-fire starting pitchers in Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, and Paul Maholm. The Cubs have repeatedly said they want to accumulate starting pitching depth, but signing Maholm feels more like an indication that one of the other five starters – most likely Garza, Dempster, or Wells – could be on the way out. It’s theoretically possible that Wells could work in a swing role – or Wood or Volstad, I suppose – but I doubt it.

From an earlier post on Maholm:

Maholm, 29, is coming off a solid, if unspectacular season, which saw him put up a 3.66 ERA and 1.294 WHIP in 162.1 innings. His 105 ERA+, only the second above-average full season in his career, suggests he was only marginally better than OK, though. On the right contract – read: cheap – Maholm could be a fine back-end of the rotation type, especially if he’s paired with an improved defensive infield (he’s a ground ball pitcher who doesn’t strike too many out).

The rub with Maholm?

He pitched only 162.1 innings last year because his year ended early with a shoulder strain (though Dr. James Andrews found no serious structural damage). He was cleared for workouts in late October, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be as effective when he returns next year.

It tends to be the case that, when you get multiple reports that a deal is “close” with no details beyond that, the writers with the info are already typing up their “Cubs sign Maholm” articles. Chances are a deal is coming soon, and probably for a couple years and something in the low teens of millions. I’ll update this post if the signing happens.

  • Cedlandrum

    well why not I guess? He at least has upside to trade later.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah. It kind of has a “whatever” feel to it. I have a feeling we’re not going to like how much money he gets, considering the risk and marginal upside.

      • ferrets_bueller

        ^this.  I really do wonder how much he’ll get paid…

        • Ashley

          This is how I feel. I guess it’s a nice signing giving us more depth and he is a nice back end guy. However, if they aren’t over paying for him, then why not?

  • JK

    I like this signing and perhaps the thought is to give Maholm time to recover and strengthen his arm early in the season so there is no push to get 200+ innings next year from him.

  • Ankur

    With Volstad and possibly Maholm, Cubs adding two guys with above 50% GB rates. Think Theo and Co have done some analysis on the high grass?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Additionally, the length of the grass at home is within the team’s control. Get a bunch of groundball pitchers, and you could finally see a home field advantage.

      • pfk

        They’ll need a machette to get through the infield grass!

    • Hawkeyegrad

      It is interesting because they traded for an extreme flyball pitcher in Wood. They seem to be going for the extremes in any event. I suspect they want groundball pitchers (especially at the back end of the rotation) but they view Wood’s stuff as good with upside.

      • Eric

        or maybe use the flyball pitchers more in the cold spring, groundball pitchers more in the summer.  Ahaaaaa, I think I’m on to something.

  • ferrets_bueller

    I really hope this means that Wells is on the way out.  Or that we’ve got a buyer on Dempster.  Or…someone actually is going to meet our asking price on Garza.

    • EQ76

      I feel like Wells is the odd man out.. we’ll see.  sometimes Wells looks really good, other times not so much.  I wish he was more consistent.

  • Kyle

    This could obviously be a prelude to a trade.

    But if not, I like a Garza/Wood/Dempster/Maholm/Volstad rotation quite a bit. If Samardzija emerges, we might even be able to push Wells down to 7th starter.

    • ferrets_bueller

      Definitely.  And in all honestly, this team slowly isn’t looking horrible for next season at all anymore.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      On that rotation, Dempster could be moved mid-season opening a slot for Samardzija / McNutt.

      And if someone gets injured? Wells, Coleman, Jackson, Rusin, and Searle would be waiting in the wings.

      Forgot the ninth starter, the Cubs might know who their thirteenth starter is. That’s not a bad place to be.

  • Kyle

    Wrigley plays as a very good park for left-handed HR hitters. We’ve been acquiring lefties and lefty pitchers to neutralize them. I like it a lot.

    • Hawkeyegrad

      It is interesting that the positional signings to date have been primarily lefties…Rizzo, Stewart and Dejesus. Then you have Brett Jackson (who also bats lefty) that may come up during the year. Should Soriano be moved you are looking at most of your power (even Lahair) coming from the left side of the plate. Then you look at the pitching moves and you have Wood and Maholm who are both lefties (Volstad is a righty). You may be onto something here.

      • JB88

        Only thing that doesn’t make a ton of sense under your scenario is how bad Volstad is at getting lefties out and how extreme his HR rate was last year.

        What these moves tell me is the following things: All things considered, the Cubs prefer: (1) lefty pitchers; (2) groundball pitchers; (3) young pitchers, but the Cubs will not discriminate against righty, fly ball pitchers, if they believe those righties have value in some way.

        • Hawkeyegrad

          I was looking for extreme park factors and sure enough Wrigley rates second in the NL for lefthanded home runs (Wrigely rates a 119 with an average park rating a 100).

          However, the intresting thing I stumbled across when looking for this is the pitcher data at the bottom of Jeff Zimmerman’s Fangraph article from a week ago. He looked at extreme GB and extreme FB pitchers and concluded if you had to choose you would first want a very extreme GB pitcher (>50% GB). However, given the data, all things being equal his second pick would be an extreme FB pitcher (<38% GB). His rationale is that "Fly ball pitchers have the advantage that fly balls are easier to catch than ground balls for outs. With these extra outs, fly ball pitchers have a lower BABIP and therefore a lower WHIP. Also, this lower BABIP allows these pitchers’ ERA to be better then their FIP and xFIP"

          Aside from acquiring lefty pitchers (Wood and Maholm…assuming this happens), they have also acquired 2 extreme GB pitcher (Maholm and Volstad) and 1 extreme FB pitchers (Wood). It is an interesting read. I've attached the link below.

          http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/kicking-big-rocks-extreme-park-factors-and-batted-ball-data/

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            This article must be making the rounds today, because I just read it (from somewhere else), and put it in the can for discussion in an upcoming post. Very interesting stuff.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Maholm has been on my shopping list since the winter began. If the Cubs are going to build with pitching and defense, ground ball pitchers are the way to go. Especially in Wrigley.

  • Kyle

    I don’t think you can count on Randy Wells for a rotation spot. No. 6 or No. 7 starter is where he belongs.

    His stuff just doesn’t play in the big leagues. He’s been doing it with smoke and mirrors for a while now, and last year’s collapse seems pretty predictable in hindsight.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Maybe. Another way of looking at it: Wells is exactly the kind of bounce-back candidate the current FO might consider a worthwhile risk.

    • Noah

      I don’t really think you can be logically consistent if you don’t think Wells can be a starting pitcher but Travis Wood, Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad are legitimate back of the rotation options. I’m not saying Wells’ best days aren’t past him, but I just don’t think that determination can be made right now. Honestly, unless Garza or Dempster are traded before opening day, I think the 3-5 spots in the rotation should be open competition between Wells, Wood, Maholm and Volstad. Even if the Cubs don’t move Garza, odds are the Cubs are going to need at least 100 innings of starting pitching from all 4 of those guys if Maholm signs.

      • Kyle

        Peripherals and stuff. Peripherals and stuff. Peripherals and stuff.

        Those are the two things I use to evaluate starting pitchers, and it is perfectly consistent.

        FIP is a stat that resembles ERA, but it’s based on a pitcher’s peripherals (K’s, BB’s and HR’s) and is more predictive of future ERA than past ERA is.

        2011 FIP for those pitchers:

        Maholm 3.73
        Wood 4.06
        Volstad 4.32
        Wells 5.11

        Maholm and Wood are nice No. 3 starters, Volstad is a useful 5, and Wells is a fringe long-man.

        • ferrets_bueller

          Somebody give this man a gold star for the day.

          • Wilbur

            He goes to the head of the class …

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          Wells also had an xFIP of 4.45 in 2011 and prior to 2011 his FIP was 3.88 (2009) and 3.93 (2010). Bill James projects him to have a 4.24 ERA, 4.23 FIP in 2012.
          I think 2010 is what you can expect out of Wells, sub 4.50 ERA, 175-180 innings, nothin spectacular but not a bad rotation arm to have around.

          • KyleNovak

            You beat me to it Hans. :)

            Kyle, While I agree that Wells had a pretty lousy season in 2011, I have to disagree with your reasoning that Wells has been doing it with “smoke and mirrors for some time now” and should be relegated to a “fringe long man.”. His FIP in 2009 and 2010 are 3.88 and 3.92 respectively, which is solid for a fourth or fifth starter.

            Look at his PitchFX numbers. Every pitch across the board was 1-2 mph slower on average, a pretty noticeable drop. His HR/FB rate skyrocketed last year. He never really returned to form following his injury and his performance this year will tell if that injury has altered his career, or if last season is an abberation.

            I agree with you that Maholm is a solid pitcher, good FIP numbers between 3.80 and 4.20 since 2008. It is that shoulder injury that concerns me a bit. It’s hard to find solace in past advanced stats when an injury gets introduced to the equation.

            • Noah

              Agree with the two of you gents.

            • Kyle

              Losing stuff because of an injury makes his immediate prognosis *worse*, not better.

        • Noah

          I’m well aware what FIP is, but FIP is heavily weighted by HR/FB rate, which isn’t particularly predictive for most pitchers (Matt Cain, who has held his HR/FB rate very low ever since coming up to the majors, is an exception). You’re making the mistake of looking at primacy over quantity when looking at statistics, which is common. But last season statistics are no more predictive than career statistics for players with enough career numbers. Look at their K/9, BB/9 and GB rates for their careers. Honestly, it’s a complete crapshoot as to which of these four guys will be best and worst in 2012. Saying that Wells is clearly the worst of those 4 isn’t looking at “peripherals and stuff”, but just looking at what happened most recently.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            “But last season statistics are no more predictive than career statistics for players with enough career numbers.”

            Random comment to add a little gray to an otherwise black and white statement: while what you’ve said is a generally-accepted principle in predicting baseball stats, it isn’t true for players clearly in a decline phase. This is wholly inapplicable to Wells or anyone in this discussion, mind you, I just thought it a fair time to make mention of it, because I see that truism stated frequently without that caveat added.

            • Noah

              Brett, that’s quite true and a good addition. However, oftentimes it’s impossible to tell if someone is in a decline phase or just had a bad season until they’re 2 to 3 years into their decline.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Definitely. Look no further than Carlos Zambrano.

                For the most part, I wouldn’t start saying “last season” is more predictive than six to eight previous seasons until a guy is at least in his early 30s.

                • King Jeff

                  Wow, and some people are telling me that there aren’t any good discussions on the main page anymore.  I really enjoyed reading that little back and forth.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Thanks. It still happens occasionally.

                    • TWC

                      Nonsense!  There’s great stuff here daily.  There’s just (a lot) more other stuff.

  • JulioZuleta

    I’m starting to think the Cubs are planning on making a big run at two of the elite SP free agents next winter. I refuse to put one ounce of credibility into the people who think the payroll is going to now be $100 million from now on. I think it’s going to be around $110-$120 this year, and with Zambrano and Dempster (among others) coming off the book next year, we are going to have a lot to spend. They’ve gathered the pieces of a solid, and young, back of the rotation, and have begun accumulating young position players for the future. If we plugged in two of the Cain, Hamels, Greinke, Sanchez quartet, you have the makings of a formidable, young team. We’ll see what happens, but it’s interesting to think about.

    • JR1908

      I agree with that Julio. Hopefully those guys don’t get extended with their current teams, which is always a risk..

  • Fishin Phil

    While this might not be the most exciting move in the history of baseball, the positive side is the Cubs would no longer have to face Maholm.  No matter what kind of year he was having, he always looked like Cy Young against the Cubs.

    • Noah

      Whenever I hear about the Cubs bringing a Cub killer on to the team I just get nightmares of Jeff Blauser.

      • King Jeff

        and Mickey Morandini

      • TWC

        It still makes me angry that they signed Blauser.  For two years.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          For quite a bit of money in those days, too.

  • fearbobafett

    great now Paul can’t shut us out everytime he starts against us :)

  • sam

    Malholm an interesting left handed pitcher. A ground ball pitcher with an extremely high whip and a bipolar era to boot. a career whip of 1.42 ( WOW) and era of 4.36. He has outstanding control but i do not know if that is relevant because of his high whip. He give up a ton hits per inning, and at last count there is 3 outs per inning . Being a ground ball pitcher the double play combination will increase his whip numbers.

    He played for the Pirates throughout his career not a great team but if he is signed he will be pitching for the Cubs so expectation should be the same , except he is coming of shoulder injury that was a 60 day dl stint.

    If the cubs sign this player and he passes the physical i do not see any real reason to get excited by this player but he plays with effort .

  • Mick

    Sounds like another buy-low type of candidate that Theo and Jed have been accumulating. I wonder who this means is getting shipped first, Garza or Dempster? Either way, Soriano better be soon to follow because we’re going to need one hell of a defense with this pitching staff.

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    i like maholms control, and i think his over all career numbers really give you a glimpse of what the cubs will be getting. a mediocre pitcher that has occasional hot flashes, and induces alot of ground balls. a pitcher that will benifit from natural grass infields, good defense, and if hes healthy will eat alot of innings in the back of your rotation. a good signing when searching for depth, nothing more. nobodys expecting this to be the deal that puts us over the top. but it does give us depth and options in the rotation. veary smart, very what you see is what you get.

  • Rochester Cubs Fan

    Only one question about signing Maholm – Why? He has been terrible for years and I don’t think he is improving with age. Especially after shoulder problems. The only positive I can see is that he has made between 29-32 starts every year except last so I guess it’s quantity over quality.

    • Mick

      He’s a buy-low candidate, he’s only 29 years old, he’s been durable throughout his career, his numbers aren’t that bad, and the Cubs need rotation depth because we’re about to trade Garza and/or Dempster. He’s pretty much the best of what’s left that doesn’t require a enormous annual salary. Doesn’t that make you feel better about our SP rotation?

  • Rochester Cubs Fan

    FIP? That sounds like fantasy geek stuff. The only real stat is when the white flag with the blue “W” is flying.

    • kubphan82

      FIP and xFIP matter in determining whether or not we are able to place that coveted “W” in the air..

    • sam

      Why are the are cubs stocking up on broken down pitchers ?. I hope its for this reason .
      They have no depth in the minors and spending a large amount of money on 2nd tier pitching is useless. I truly believe that any of these pitcher have good years or in the process of having a good year they will be traded to contenders that will in return give the Cubs younger pitchers with better upside and that is great. .

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    i dont think improvment is what anyone is expecting. i think improvment would be huge unexpected plus. a guy like this only keeps you in the game if you play good D behind him. there is nothing lights out about him. he is consistantly mediocre and well take the consistant and never mind the mediocre.

    • ogyu

      Official Cubs slogan for 2012: “Come for the mediocrity, stay for the consistency.”

      • bacboris

        That’s a nice quip. Well done!

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    i mean maholm was my number 1 choice of the guys still available, just because he is consistant and cost effecient. all these other pitchers got agents telling them there roy holliday and that they should get the big contract.cubs have money but the mantra so far this off season has been to spend wisely and conservitivly. i love that they are sticking to the game. maholm is actually a decent arm too, not spectacular, but not priced spectacular either

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    to stay mediocre consistantly this season would be a upgrade from last season.agreed?

    • Wilbur

      Totally, I expect to see the same won lost record, but they’ll look better doing it – they’ll catch and throw well, but will lose because of a lack of offense. As they will be younger players, many with the chance to grow, although some will regress.

      2012 is the foundation, create a roster of 40 generally younger more athletic types who are a base that will be augmented as players mature through the minors and, when need and value intersect, by signing free agents.

      As fans we’re not seeing a great team being torn apart, we’re seeing a weak, aging, over paid team – with little in the minor leagues – being transformed into weak team, that is at least young and with potential. Not a great place to be, but speaks volumes about where we plan to be in the future.

      • baseballet

        Well said Wilbur

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    to consider that jackson still thinks hes gonna get 17M a season, and sign a 5 yr deal. im alot more satisfied with maholm.

    • Cubbiecop

      I think Jackson better lay off the crack pipe. Thats what I think! There is no way that he is worth that kind of money. Boras needs to stop trying to cram 2-3 extra years and 4-5 million extra a year onto contracts. Some teams have already stopped negotiating with him (Orioles If i recall correctly) and I applaud them for that. While I am all about “fair market value” Boras is always trying to set the bar at stupid levels to pad his pockets. That is why Fielder has not signed yet, because of Boras filling his head full of bullsh*t.

  • Kyle

    I think the way I’d describe the way the 2012 Cubs are shaping up is “mediocrity with upside.”

    I’ve got them down for 74 wins with Maholm. But there’s a lot of young guys on the roster who could exceed their projections by a nice amount and push them up toward .500 and maybe a smidge beyond if all goes well.

    • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

      agreed and spoken like a true fan!

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      If the Cubs become an extremely aggressive hit-and-run, base-swiping team on offense and avoid major injuries, I can see them reaching 78-80 wins. I think they have the pieces to play that way… maybe not well for the first part of the season, but they’ll get there.

      On the other hand, if they stand around and wait on the long ball, 68 wins might be generous.

      If they break .500, Sveum should be a shoo-in for Manager of the Year.

  • truebluecubbie

    Well even if they do sign him, I could see Wells going to the bullpen before any of the other starters. I doubt Dempster is on his way out until at least the trade deadline. Garza is still floating out there for a club, but really, no one wants to give up that much for a number 3 or 4 starter. He is only a number 1 or 2 on the Cubs. Whatever they do, I trust Theo. He is building a young nucleus of role players that could very well be the future. He has yet to make a move that I didn’t like.

    • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

      even a guy like wells has an upside that exceeds his usual performance.

  • TeddyBallGame

    Yes, Maholm would definitely be an anti-climactic signing, but it falls in line with what Theo and Jed have said since Day 1 and that’s to acquire depth at the starting pitching position. I don’t mean this literally, but it seems like Theo and Jed have been treating this off-season as if it were fantasy baseball. What I mean by that, is that they have no emotional attachment to players on the roster aside from their obvious man crush, recently acquired Anthony Rizzo (seems understandable) and it seems to really be playing in their favor. Another thing I’ve noticed is that they’ve created a sense of deception with not only fans, but other clubs as well. Noone knew how serious the Cubs were with pursuing Pujols, Fielder, if we were going to allow Big Z to stay, and this does nothing, but play in the Cubs favor. Even though the Cubs didn’t sign Pujols or Fielder (safe assumption) it’s obvious they at least inflated their value to make other teams overpay and possibly might’ve pushed the Angels over the edge with the Pujols contract. We may never know. All in all, these little additions (Maholm) are seemingly adding up and it seems like Theo is doing everything in his power to have a roster that’ll bust their ass everyday. Regardless of overall record, I hope Theo and Sveum will make sure the Cubs are gonna show up everyday to play and give us Cubs fans reason to be patient and see where this progression takes us…I really don’t feel this is blind confidence, but a new regime with an actual direction…

    • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

      my words exactly

    • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

      a team that shows heart, and promise.

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    if these guys play well we could be in for a surprise

  • jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Wood and Wells is not a horrible rotation. Not the Phillies by any stretch, but not horrible.

  • Wilbur

    A lot of good perspective from the comments that are being posted …

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    the team is getting younger more athletic less expensive and the farm is getting stronger. the direction is showing itself and i like it.

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    next years class of FA SP is awesome! our rotation for the fallowing year could all of a sudden be a beast with some big and ballsy moves.

  • TeddyBallGame

    Agreed, we may be in for a surprise under the “2003″ act, but I’m definitely not holding my breath. 2011 was the definition of a throwaway season, but 2012 won’t be from the direction it seems to be going because we’re getting quality young talent on the verge of being on the major league club. All I ask is that we make the smart plays on the field and basepaths in addition to playing all out (see Reed Johnson) evry game regardless of our record at the time. If this happens, the development of our young players will follow suit. EIther way, 2012 is going to be exciting!!

  • MichCubFan

    I think Wells is a solid 4 guy.  His FIP in ’09 and ’10 have already been mentioned, but his ’11 season was marred by injuries.  And don’t forget that he started to pitch well late in the season.

    I think Garza is getting moved and we will have Dempster, Wood, Wells, Maholm, and Volstad as our starting rotation.  Then in the Garza deal we will get a guy or two who could be ready to crack the rotation sometime this year or at the beginning of next year.

     

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Actually, looking at the pitchers they have now, the pitchers that are in the farm system, and the pitchers expected to be on the free agent market next season… I don’t think the priority when trading Garza should be a pitcher.

      Long term, the Cubs need another middle of the order bat. Rizzo, when he arrives, could slot in the order somewhere from 4 to 6. Jackson will likely be a top 3 or a bottom 3 guy, depending on how his OBP holds up in the majors. Once we get past those two, Vitters is the next best bat. He could check in as high as a #3 hitter (.290+, 25+ HR) if he maximizes his potential, but he could also be a #7 guy (.265, 15+ HR) or a bench player.

      And after Vitters, I don’t see a potential middle of the order bat (except Rebel Ridling, who is an entirely different and interesting debate, but is likely a fringe/sleeper guy at best) until the very low minors.

      Assuming the best possible production from Rizzo, Stewart, and Jackson, the Cubs are still lacking a right handed hitter who can bat 4th or 5th and break up the lefties a bit. Cespedes might be that guy if the Cubs sign him, but I think we have to put him beside Vitters on the question mark pile. Somewhere, they need to find another middle of the order bat.

      If the Cubs can sign one or two premier free agent starters after the 2012 season, they will have just about completed their rebuilding… if the offense is in place. And the biggest hole in the offense is that right handed bat. If the Cubs trade Garza, I think landing one or two high-level, middle of the order bat prospects (preferably right handed) has to be near the top of the shopping list. Naturally, talent is talent and the Cubs should make any deal that blows them away, but I’m not convinced that the biggest need on this team is pitching anymore.

      • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

        Lahair?

        • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

          I think of LaHair as in the majors and not a prospect. He would go on the list of potential middle of the order bats… but he’s a lefty.

      • Ryan

        I don’t agree with this at all. Cubs most definitely need to acquire Turner in any Garza deal with Detroit..we need top pitching prospects and we really don’t have any close to the majors except McNutt and he is debatable. Baez is cleary a middle of the order bat albeit quite awhile away from the majors. Soler is a guy the Cubs could/should sign to be a potential middle of the order OF. Cubs have some other high ceiling middle of the order potential bats (besides Jackson, Rizzo, and Baez) but certainly no real sure things.

        • BetterNews

          There is no Garza deal. And I don’t wear glasses! Not that I am biased against those who do, but I “see” no trade here.

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