The Kerry Wood Friday Thread
Free Agency is the devil. Three decades ago, one could safely assume that your favorite player would stay with his team from Year One to his retirement. There are aspects of that which are really cool, because entire generations of baseball fans grew up cheering for the same player at the age of 20 as they did back when they were 7.
These days, players bounce around teams like a pinball. They are rarely loyal, almost never obligated, and they can perhaps best be characterized as being mercenaries. Point of fact, there are very few veterans in their early-to-mid 30's who remain with the team that drafted them. Guys like Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera are rare and, not coincidentally, ridiculously well-compensated by their teams. Funny thing is, the Cubs have a guy like that. His name is Kerry Wood.
Wood has now been a part of the Cubs organization for more than 13 years. He has seen highs and lows - he's suffered through elbow and shoulder injuries, he's become the toast of the town, he's seen multiple 90+ loss teams, and he's reached the playoffs in a Cubs uniform more than any other player in the organization's history. He's also displayed unusual loyalty - since his arm injuries really became the story of his career, Wood has made compromises to stay a Cub. He's accepted one-year deals heavy in bonuses, even though other teams have been willing to take a multi-year chance on him.
This past season, Wood was converted to closer. He went through rocky periods, but he turned out to be reliable and, at times, all-out dominant. He also again missed one big chunk of time in the season - a full month battling (of all things) a blister. But he's proven that he is a serviceable closer, his arm was not a problem at all this year, and he is again a pending free agent who will likely be coveted by numerous teams. Can Jim Hendry bring him back?
It's questionable. The current hanging issue is years. Wood's already given the Cubs a few one-year deals. He's worked to prove that he can be reliable. The current rumor is that he wants a 3 year deal minimally, while the Cubs may be reluctant to give him more than 2 years.
I think that a compromise might be something like I suggested in my massive Free Agency article last week:
Offer Wood a 2 year deal which pays somewhere between 7-8 million a season. Include minimally 1 and perhaps 2 option years which automatically kick in if Wood meets an innings pitched requirement of, say, 100 between Years 1 and 2. Hell, do it just like this:
Year 1: 6.5 million
Year 2: 7.5 million
Year 3: If 100 innings pitched in Yrs 1 and 2, 8.5 million, can be voided by the pitcher
Year 4: If 160 innings pitched in Yrs 1, 2, and 3, 9.5 million, can be voided by the pitcher
Hopefully this would keep Wood happy. It would also make him very well-paid (if not overpaid) to be the closer.
Regardless, Kerry Wood actually likes Chicago. He is actually loyal to this city, this team, and the fans. He may go, but I don't think he will, and if any player on the current Cubs team has a chance of wearing a Cubs uniform from Day First to Day Last, it's Kerry Wood.
And remember. Jim Hendry has a track record of retaining any and every free agent Cub he's wanted to keep. Does anybody here think there's a chance that Hendry doesn't want to keep Kerry Wood a Cub?