When the Chicago Cubs initially announced the signing of Kerry Wood, thus guaranteeing that the reliever will have at least one more season on the North Side, I will be the first to admit that I was overrun with joy. The fan in me took center stage rather than the blogger. I felt that Wood was entitled to being a member of the Chicago Cubs’ organization and it shouldn’t be any other way.
But then I began to think about how Wood fit with the Cubs.
The Cubs are a team that is being operated on by a front office that is wearing long-term goggles. That being the reason why Anthony Rizzo, Chris Volstad, and Travis Wood are now a part of the organization. This also is the reason why the Cubs have traded center fielder Marlon Byrd, and are potentially looking to trade catcher Geovany Soto, starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and/or Matt Garza, and closer Carlos Marmol. The Cubs’ front office is geared towards turning short-term assets into long-term assets. That philosophy right there may be the biggest reason why Wood was not a fit on the Cubs’ roster. The Cubs’ front office would have contradicted themselves. This is partially the reason why I think Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts was the brains behind Wood returning to the organization. Nonetheless, Cubs’ president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer were faced to add a short-term asset in Wood rather than subtract one.
With that being said, there still is a way that Wood could be on the Major League roster but have a minimal impact on the long-term building of the Cubs’ Major League team. Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum finally seems to have found that way.
When the Cubs began the season, Wood was designated as the team’s primary set-up reliever. With Sean Marshall now a part of the Cincinnati Reds organization, Wood was in a prime position to be the team’s eighth inning set-up for the second consecutive season. The only issue is that the 2012 Cubs do not have the same expectations that the 2011 Cubs. No matter how unlikely it seemed, the 2011 Cubs were a team that tried desperately to content for a spot in the post-season. The 2011 Cubs were desperate not good. The 2012 Cubs are neither desperate nor is the team good. Instead, the 2012 Cubs are patient and rebuilding. Though with Kerry Wood as the team’s primary set-up man, those two words may have been lost upon Cubs’ fans.
Wood started the season on a sour note as the reliever was a major contributor to the Cubs first two losses to open up the season. Wood regained his effective form thereafter, but the reliever was placed on the disabled list during the second week of the season due to tightness in his right shoulder. Wood is scheduled to come off the disabled list this week, but his role on the team may have changed.
Sveum told reporters on Monday that when Wood returns from the disabled list, the reliever is not going to resume his role as the primary set-up man in the Cubs’ bullpen. Though, Sveum did not rule out the possibility of Wood returning to the role in the future. For now at least, it would appear that Rafael Dolis is going to be the team’s primary set-up man.
In 11 appearance this season, Dolis has an ERA of 3.95 with a WHIP 1.32 to go along with 2 strikeouts and 8 base on balls. Obviously, if Dolis is going to become an effective late inning reliever the pitcher is going to have improve his strikeout to walk ratio. But, Dolis has the makeup of a late-inning reliever. Dolis has a powerful arm, and could be the future closer for the Cubs. The first step to Dolis becoming the team’s closer is proving to Sveum that he can handle pressure situations. Dolis has been faced with an increased amount of pressure in the wake of Wood’s injury, and those opportunities will continue to come for the 24 year old reliever.
Wood is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Thursday.