Currently on the Chicago Cubs 25 man roster there is not a single player left from the 2003 playoff team that was five outs from advancing to the World Series. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, while starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano was traded to the Miami Marlins. The departures of both Ramirez and Zambrano meant so much more than just clearing two roster spots on the 25 man roster. The moves signaled change at Wrigley Field. With new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the Cubs’ front office is no longer compelled to field a team that has a decent chance at contending for the next season. Rather Epstein and Hoyer have brought with them a concept that has seldom been used in the Cubs’ organization. That concept, of course, is rebuilding. The future of the team has changed from Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, and Andrew Cashner to Castro, Brett Jackson, and Anthony Rizzo.
While that type of change should be welcomed by fans, veteran players on the roster may not be too fond of the idea. One member of the 2003 team that likely will return to the Cubs at some point this winter is reliever Kerry Wood.
It seemed like a fairy-tale ending last off-season when Wood and former general manager Jim Hendry discussed the idea of the reliever returning to the Cubs while at the Ron Santo funeral procession. A week later, Wood returned to Wrigley Field where he finalized his one year, $1.5 million contract. While the contract length was only one year, the belief was that Wood and Hendry had an understanding that the Cub-Icon will remain with the organization in some capacity for the rest of his playing and non-playing career. The thing that neither Wood nor Hendry anticipated when constructing the theoretical “life-time” deal is that Hendry would no longer be the man in power this winter. In came Epstein and Hoyer, who do not have the same personal connection with Wood that Hendry had.
Having said that, both Epstein and Hoyer have admitted that they are still looking to improve the Cubs’ pitching staff. With the Cubs’ best reliever last season–Sean Marshall–now with the Reds, one would think that the Cubs’ front office would like to have another veteran in the bullpen to go along with Carlos Marmol. Manny Corpas, who the Cubs’ signed earlier this off-season, could be that option but the reliever is coming off of Tommy John Surgery that he had performed in September of 2010.
Not to mention that the Cubs’ front office likely want to have a “clubhouse guy” on their roster. Wood would certainly qualify. Wood has been a respected voice in the Cubs’ clubhouse dating back to the days of Dusty Baker. Even though Wood is still labeled as a free agent, Wood has taken to his twitter account numerous times this winter to discuss Cubs’ related activity.
Other teams may be interested, but in the end, Wood will be a Cub come opening day 2012.