The departures of third baseman Aramis Ramirez and starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano has been widely celebrated by the Chicago Cubs’ fan base. Since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took control of the Cubs’ front office, it would seem that the pair of executives can no wrong in the eyes of Cubs’ fans. Fans have long been clamoring for both Ramirez and Zambrano to no longer be with the organization, and they got their wish this 0ff-season. But the next departure from the Cubs may not celebrated like the departures of Zambrano and Ramirez. No, there is nothing new on the Alfonso Soriano front. Rather the player whose future is in jeopardy with the Cubs is fan favorite Kerry Wood.
Once the 2011 season concluded, Wood told reporters he would retire rather than not pitch with the Cubs in 2012. Ever since Wood made those statements, it has long been considered a given that the veteran reliever would eventually formalize his return to the team at some point this off-season. Epstein and Hoyer have been in negotiations with Wood and his representatives for most of the off-season, and the consensus was the two sides would eventually come to an agreement. However, with Spring Training around the corner, skepticism is growing that Wood will not be returning to the Cubs in 2012.
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s David Kaplan cites two sources in saying that Wood’s time with the Cubs is all but over. Here is what the source had to say on where things stand between the Cubs and Wood:
“Woody wanted to be here despite the rebuilding process but while the Cubs were saying they wanted him back they were unwilling to pay him the market value for a solid set up man,” he said. “He has heard from a number of teams that are World Series contenders and they are all willing to pay him a very fair salary to strengthen their bullpen. The Cubs expected him to pitch for another hometown discount. He has already done that for them a couple of times before. There is no reason that he should have to do that again.” Comcast Sportsnet
Recent reports have suggested that Wood is asking for contract that is worth $4 million. A healthy increase from the one year, $1.5 million contract that Wood signed in the Winter of 201o to return to the Cubs’ organization. Cubs’ fans are not going to like this but if Wood is asking for $4 million, then Epstein and Hoyer are making the right move by showing him the door. Without looking at what Wood’s name means to the organization and the fan-base, it is clear that reliever is not a fit for the team. Wood is a 34 year old set-up man that brings value to a post-season contender and not to a team that will struggle to win 70 games this season. Chris Carpenter and Jeff Samardzija would be more logical options for the Cubs–a team that is rebuilding–as their eighth inning set-up man. Samardzija, however, will be given an opportunity in Spring Training to win a spot in the starting rotation.
While Wood may be ready to close the door on his time with the Cubs, it does not appear that Hoyer is ready to do so. While announcing the signing of Paul Maholm–one year, $4.25 million with a club option for 2013–Hoyer addressed the Kerry Wood negotiations.
“We continue to want Kerry back in Chicago,” Hoyer said. “We’ve offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done.
“(President of baseball operations Theo Epstein) and I and the rest of the people we brought in, obviously we come in with somewhat a fresh set of eyes, that doesn’t diminish what people have done long before we’re here.”
“We both understand the history of the organization and which players mean a lot to the fan base and Kerry is one of them,” Hoyer said. “So that is something we’re aware of, and fresh eyes are one thing but that doesn’t’ mean you ignore the rich past the Cubs have.” ESPN Chicago
Epstein and Hoyer are two of the most intelligent minds in all of baseball. While the pair of executives are in good graces with the Cubs’ fan-base, they must realize that they need to give fans some satisfaction while asking them to endure a rebuilding season. That token of satisfaction may be Kerry Wood. I wonder what a “substantial raise” is to Epstein and Hoyer. With Wood having made $1.5 million last season, a substantial raise would likely be in the $3 million to $4 million range. While Wood is seeking $4 million, lets say the Cubs have an offer of $3.5 million; that should be a large enough raise to get the deal done. But like I said, from a pure baseball standpoint, Wood is not that great of fit for the direction that the Cubs are headed in.
Wood is set to make his decision on a team this Friday when the Cubs’ Convention starts. Knowing how the Cubs’ front office likes to keep their operations close to the vest, would anyone be surprised if Wood and the Cubs announced his return as a way to kick off the convention.