Cubbies Crib outlook on the Cubs’ 40 man roster continues today with a look at Travis Wood. Wood, who was acquired by the Cubs earlier in the off-season in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, is currently competing with Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, and Jeff Samardzija for one of the final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation.
When President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer agreed to trade reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds for starting pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt, and a minor league second baseman the initial reaction was concern as the Cubs’ best reliever in 2011 would no longer be with the organization. But Epstein did not sign off on the trade for the sole purpose of trading away Marshall. The former Red Sox general manager expressed interest in trading for Wood during the 2011 season. With that thinking, Epstein essentially achieved two goal while making one trade. The Cubs’ president traded Marshall, viewed as a short term asset, for Wood who is under team control through the 2016 season.
Wood made his debut for the Reds in 2010 starting 17 games as rookie. Wood posted a record of 5-4 with an ERA of 3.51 while striking out 86 and walking 26 batters. Wood was trending up for the 2011 season, but as the case with many second year players in Major League Baseball, the starting pitcher went through a sophomore slump in 2011. Wood posted an ERA of 4.84 in 22 appearances, 18 of which were starts, striking out 76 and walking 40 batters. The simple reason for Wood’s struggles in 2011 was that he lost command of his pitches. Wood’s inning pitched in 2o1o and 2o11 are fairly similar as the he pitched 102.2 innings in ’10 and 106 innings in ’11. Despite his innings pitched being nearly the same, Wood issued 14 more walks in 2011 than he did in 2010. The goal for Wood in 2o12 will be locating his pitches, and judging from his Spring Training appearances, the pitcher still needs to wok on his command before Opening Day.
Wood’s role with the Cubs in 2o12 is still uncertain. At this point, it would seem that Wood is seemingly behind both Volstad and Samardzija in the competition for the final two spots in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Wood still has an option left in his contract so it is possible that the pitcher could start the season with the Iowa Cubs. But a likelier scenario may be one that places Wood in the bullpen as swing-man between the bullpen and starting rotation. Though the key to Wood’s role may be determined by what happens with Randy Wells. Wells also has an option left in his contract, so he would be eligible to be sent to Iowa if need be. However, like Wood, Wells would also be a prime candidate for the bullpen. In fact, Wells may be more suited for a bullpen role than Wood. For that reason, it is entirely possible that Volstad and Samardzia win the final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation while Wells is designated to the bullpen and an occasional spot start and Wood is sent to the Iowa Cubs’ starting rotation.
Wood is 25 years old, so he likely will receive an opportunity at some point to be a mainstay in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Though, that opportunity may not come until either Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster are traded. The Cubs were burned last season for their lack of pitching depth, especially after injuries to Wells and Andrew Cashner. But with pitchers like Wood now a part of the Cubs’ organization, it would seem likely that the Cubs will avoid such a problem again in 2012.