As the 2012 season approaches, Cubbies Crib is profiling each and every member of the Cubs forty man roster. Today, we are talking about Kerry Wood.
The off season news regarding Wood’s return to the Cubs went from being an assumed formality of signing the paperwork to the reported possibility that the veteran set up man was going to show up to Spring Training in black or carmine red pinstripes (White Sox and Phillies respectively). With the Cubs organization literally being in a rebuilding mode, it made sense for the new front office to play hard ball with the fan favorite.
Wood’s second go around with the Cubs came with much excitement after he spent two years in Cleveland and New York after 2008. He had proved that he still had plenty left in the tank after being traded to the playoff bound Yankees in the middle of the 2010 season despite subpar numbers with the Indians. His wish to return to his baseball career home of Wrigley prompted the below market deal, and in 2011 he was definitely one of the best bargains around in baseball, posting a 3.35 ERA in 55 appearances with 45 holds. He kept up his reputation as a strikeout pitcher, registering over one punch out per inning, and he kept his walks down to a reasonable number at 21.
The only disappointment is that the veteran reliever was not moved for a quality prospect or two at last year’s trade deadline. It is unknown if Wood would have vetoed being shopped around considering the fact that he took a hometown discount to come back to Wrigley, not to mention the fact that former GM Jim Hendry had a great relationship with the pitcher, to the point where Hendry would have respected Wood’s desire not to be traded. The former GM’s lame duck status was the general excuse used by the organization to explain the lack of activity in the trade market by the underachieving ballclub despite reported interested in several of the team’s players from playoff clubs.
Wood is another player that fans should expect to produce numbers consistent with last season. He will find himself back in the set up role and will be the veteran presence and leader for what will again be a fairly young Cubs bullpen. A minor injury or two may pop up, but more so due to Wood’s age than the injury prone label he has had to deal with throughout his career. The only difference is that he has a team option for 2013 at $3 million, and it will play a part in trade possibilities come June and July, when contending teams will surely blow up Theo Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s cell phones to see if the solid veteran is available. It is respectable that Wood wants to win the World Series in Cubs blue just as much as the fans want to finally see their beloved team win it period, but with the right hander turning 36 in 2013, it is starting to look that much more difficult to turn into reality, with 2012 pretty much being chalked up as a lost cause in terms of playoff aspirations.