Remember the feel-good story of the off-season last winter? On the grieving day that friends and family met to remember the life of Cub Icon Ron Santo, and then the gathering at Harry Carry’s after the funeral procession. It was at that gathering where reliever Kerry Wood approached then Cubs’ general manager Jim Hendry about the possibility of Wood returning to the North Side. Then, the following week Hendry announced that the the Cubs and Wood have agreed to a one year deal worth $1.5 million. Wood was offered more than double of that by other contending teams, but opted to come back to the city that both he and his family adore.
At the welcome back press conference for Wood, the belief was that both Wood and Hendry had an understanding that the reliever will remain with the Cubs organization for the rest of his career. That opportunity still exists, but with Hendry now out of the picture, the new general manager of the team will be the one who decides whether or not Wood’s career continues.
Wood was shutdown for the rest of the season on Monday after it was discovered that he has torn meniscus in his left knee that requires surgery. At age 34, Wood–whose career has been riddled with injuries–may see the end in sight. Wood told reporters that if the Cubs are not interested in bring him back next season, he is going to retire and then hopefully continue working with the organization in some capacity.
“I’m not going to play anywhere else,” Wood said. “I’m hoping the Cubs want me back next season. My commitment is to the Cubs. And although I still want to pitch, if they don’t want me back, then I’ll retire.” ESPN Chicago
As Wood alluded to, he still has the capability of being an effective eighth inning reliever for any team. This season, Wood made 55 appearances for the Cubs posting an ERA of 3.35, a WHIP of 1.29, and 21 holds. Though there are still reasons of concern for Wood going forward. Wood’s track record with injuries speaks for itself and it was on display this season. Earlier in the season, Wood missed close to month because of a blister on his pitching and would be coming off of arthroscopic knee surgery if the Cubs decided to bring him back for the 2012 season. In addition, Wood has gone through spurts of inconsistency this season. For example, Wood had an ERA of 6.00 in the month of July and his ERA as total jumped from 2.48 before the All-Star break to 4.50 after the All-Star break.
Besides, the Cubs have a number of young pitchers that could be ready to break out as set-up man in the bullpen for the 2012 season. Three potential candidates to replace Wood in the eighth inning are Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner, or Chris Carpenter. Samardzija has finally put together a full season of success at the major league level as he has posted an ERA of 3.01 in 73 appearances with the Cubs this season. Though, depending on what the Cubs do to improve their starting rotation in the off-season, Samardzija could make the transition to a starting pitcher next season. As for Cashner, the Cubs have yet to determine if he is going to be a starting pitcher or relief pitcher out of the bullpen. This season has been a wash for Cashner as he has spent most of the season on the disabled list, but Cashner will pitch in the Arizona Fall League as a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, Carpenter has been dubbed by some as the closer of the future and start to make that transition in 2012. Carpenter figures to play a vital role in the Cubs’ bullpen for the 2012 season, and that role could come as the eighth inning set-up man.
While Kerry Wood is looking to return, the times are changing at Wrigley Field, and it may be time for the Cubs to find a new “Kid K”–with the emphasis on Kid.