P Jason Marquis, named 2006’s top Jewish starter in the big leagues by Chicago Jewish News, has signed a 3 year, $20 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan notes that Marquis was 3-10 during the second half of last season, and compiled an ERA of 6.72 during that span. Of course, there’s the old adage that you’ve got to be pretty good to lose 20 games (unless you’re Anthony Young), so Marquis must be something close to a living, breathing pitcher to have lost 16 games for the Cardinals in 2006. Chin up, Cubs fans, St. Louis would sooner give BRADEN LOOPER a chance to start next season than bring back Marquis, yet your hospitalized GM managed to make this brilliant move.

The Denver Post’s Troy E. Renck claims the Rockies are discussing a swap of P Jason Jennings for Houston’s Jason Hirsh, plus either OF Willy Tavares or reliever Dan Wheeler.

Houston hasn’t given up on landing Chicago White Sox right-hander Jon Garland, though it’s unlikely after a deal collapsed under odd circumstances Thursday. The Astros have told teams Taveras is available, but parting with Wheeler would be difficult after veteran Russ Springer signed with the Cardinals on Friday. Springer received a one-year, $1.75 million deal to join the world champions. The Cubs, if they don’t land free agent Jason Marquis, also could re-ignite talks for Jennings. Their prime trading piece, outfielder Jacque Jones, however, is not a great match for Colorado. Texas also has continued to show interest in Jennings and possesses talented reliever C.J. Wilson and promising starter John Danks.

Houston’s willingness to pay what the Chronicle’s Richard Justice calls “the going rate for quality pitching” has the columnist questioning Drayton McLane’s credibility “the next time you hear him talk about wanting to be a champion.”

He offered Pettitte a one-year contract worth $12 million. He refused to budge from that offer.

Even as the price for mediocre pitchers soared, as Ted Lilly got $10 million a year and Gil Meche $11 million and Adam Eaton $8 million, McLane held fast. Who wants to be a champion? Who is he kidding?

Pettitte is far better than any of those pitchers, and his return alone might have been the difference between the Astros finishing first and third next season.

Orioles GM Jim Duquette credits Jay Payton’s “east coast bias” for the outfielder’s decision to sign a two-year deal with Baltimore yesterday, though the O’s willingness to shell out nearly $10 million over two years might’ve had a bit to do with it, too.