With the attention over the course of the past couple of weeks being on starting pitcher Matt Garza and whether he will be with the Chicago Cubs come opening day, this week it seemed that the focus shifted from Garza to Kerry Wood. Wood entered the week as a free agent, and reports early in the week suggested that the reliever was preparing himself for his departure from the Cubs’ organization. A report on Tuesday morning from David Kaplan suggested that the reliever’s time with the Cubs was all but over. Around the same time that Wood’s departure from the Cubs seemed likely, both the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers entered the picture as possible suitors for the Cub-Icon.
As expected, Kerry Wood will be signing with a new team by Friday. But to the relief of many Cubs’ fans, Wood’s new team is the same team he was on in 2011. Wood is returning to the Cubs for the 2o12 season.
Jon Morosi tweeted that the Cubs and Wood are closing in on a one year deal for 2012 with an option for the 2o13 season. The terms of the imminent deal were not disclosed. Wood made $1.5 million last season with the Cubs, which many considered to be a home-town discount. That same home-town discount is what provided a hurdle for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer in their contract negotiations with Wood’s agent. Wood had been seeking $4 million, but Epstein and Hoyer were hoping for Wood to take a home-town discount. With Wood having taken a home-town discount last off-season, it seemed unlikely the reliever would want to another discount for the 2012 season.
While the terms of Wood’s next contract with the Cubs likely will not be known until the deal is office, Hoyer did tell reporters that the Cubs were offering Wood a “substantial raise” from his 2011 salary. With that knowledge, I will say that contract will probably be worth $3 million to $3.5 million. The option in the contract was likely an effort by Epstein and Hoyer to give Wood some sense of security.
As Cubs’ fan, I am thrilled with this news. Kerry Wood belongs in a Cubs’ uniform. I fully support the rebuilding project that Epstein and Hoyer are conducting, but the pair of executives needed to give Cubs’ fans some token of gratuity while they are forced to be witness to the project. Wood provides that gratuity for Cubs’ fans. Whether it was when Wood earned the nickname as “Kid K” after his 20 strikeout performance in his rookie season; his efforts during the 2003 post-season run; or closing out games; Wood is one player that will always be loved by Cubs’ fans no matter what capacity he is in.
Even among his teammates, Wood is loved. James Russell mentioned during the Cubs’ caravan that the return of Wood would be much appreciated among the pitchers in the Cubs bullpen. Wood’s knowledge of pitching and baseball in general has earned him to be one of the most respected players to ever step foot in the Cubs’ clubhouse. That alone would be enough for Epstein and Hoyer to welcome the return of Wood with open arms.
At the same time, from a pure baseball standpoint, Wood is not the best of fits for the Cubs and the direction that the team is headed in. It is no secret that the Cubs are rebuilding, Epstein and Hoyer have stated as much. Wood is a 34 year old reliever his value would be significant for a team that is a legitimate post-season contender and not for a team that will struggle to be relevant in 2012. Nonetheless, with Jeff Samardzija preparing as a starting pitcher in Spring Training, Wood should slide right into the set-up role he was in for the Cubs in 2011.