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lukewarm stoveThe week winds down, and Thanksgiving Week approaches. We’re starting to see an uptick in activity, and that’ll likely continue right on through December, with a blip for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • The Cubs were in on Josh Johnson after all, which the pitcher himself told Jim Bowden. His final five (if I’m reading Bowden’s shorthand correctly) were the Padres, Pirates, Giants, Royals, and Cubs. In the end, and as I suspected when I wrote up Johnson’s deal with the Padres, the Padres were simply Johnson’s preference. It doesn’t sound like it was a matter of another team – like the Cubs – being unwilling to top the Padres’ reasonable one-year, $8 million offer. Johnson simply wanted to pitch in a huge park for Bud Black in a city closer to his Las Vegas home.
  • That the Cubs were definitively involved with Johnson confirms that they are looking to add at least one more starting pitcher this offseason, and likely someone from the Johnson tier of arms. Allow me to once again suggest Phil Hughes.
  • I’ve been thinking about the Jason Vargas deal with the Royals since it was announced late yesterday, but, in the end, I just don’t see it as a market mover. Vargas, one of the most average pitchers you can find, signed for four years and $32 million. Four years for a league-average 31-year-old pitcher with some health concerns is a bit wonky, but $8 million per year certainly isn’t. Vargas has been worth, oh, about 1.5 to 2 wins per year for the last several years, and that’s a reasonable projection over his next four. At $6 million per win in free agency (the figure was about $5.5 million two years ago, so it has to AT LEAST have climbed to $6 million by now, and likely much higher), Vargas is arguably worth closer to $10 or $11 million per year. As I dug in on the contract further, I found this piece from Dave Cameron, who pretty much sums up my reaction. In the end, the deal is less about holy-crap-the-market-is-going-nuts, and more about the Royals guaranteeing four years in exchange for a very reasonable annual salary. So, I guess … nothing to see here, move right along.
  • The Tigers might now be in the market for Shin-Soo Choo, according to Buster Olney. It only makes sense – rid yourself of one albatross contract, sign up for another. I’m actually not being as facetious as it sounds like I’m being. The Tigers are very much built to win right now, and signing players like Choo to big deals is exactly what they should be doing. Gotta grab those front-end valuable years while you can. Sort out the back-end, dead money years later.
  • Speaking of the Tigers’ outfield, a precursor to signing Choo could be dealing young center fielder Austin Jackson. That comes from Bob Nightengale, who mentions in passing on Twitter that the Tigers are listening to offers on Jackson, who seems to have fallen out of favor a bit in Detroit. Offensively, Jackson was down last year, but he plays solid defense in center field. Taken together, he’s a 3.5/4-win player, on average. Jackson is just 26, and has two more arbitration years left after making $3.5 million last year. The Cubs’ internal outfield push might not arrive for another year or two, and Jackson is obviously still young enough to be a part of “the core.” How could you not at least inquire, right?
  • And speaking of the outfield, if you had your heart set on a Chris Young/someone else platoon in the Cubs’ outfield, you can cross it off a list that was probably not worth making in the first place. (Stick to mix tapes.) Young reportedly just signed a one-year deal with the Mets for a whopping $7.25 million. There’s certainly a premium in there for it being a one-year deal, but yowsa. That’s obviously far too much to pay for the mere right-handed portion of a platoon (which is to say, the Mets clearly plan on starting him full-time), and it makes me wonder if the Cubs have dramatically undervalued David DeJesus and Scott Hairston over the past year.

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