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Mar. 8 2010 - 5:35 pm | 276 views | 0 recommendations | 13 comments

Cubs ought to re-acquire Kerry Wood for setup gig

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 02:  Kerry Wood #34 of the C...

Kerry Wood is a logical choice to bring back to plug a gaping bullpen hole (image via Wikipedia).

Cubs brass can sugarcoat it all they want. They have a dire situation in their bullpen with only two sure things — closer Carlos Marmol and lefty setup man John Grabow.

To gussy up the mess by proclaiming jobs are open and a whole platoon of undistinguished kids in camp in Mesa can claim the relief roles is, well, dishonest. That’s why GM Jim Hendry simply should dial up Cleveland counterpart Mark Shapiro, offer a prospect and a veteran, and reacquire all-time Cub Kerry Wood as his right-handed eighth-inning man.

Of course, Hendry must first call owner Tom Ricketts, who does not seem to have any extra bucks to put toward player payroll after spending $900 million to buy the Cubs. The payroll did go up about $10 million, but that’s largely soaked up by escalating long-term contracts.

Wood, who earns about $10 million, does not expect to finish out the season with the rebuilding, budget-conscious Indians. He figured he’d be traded by July. But the Cubs can’t afford to wait ’till a porous ‘pen flushes down the season early on. Throw out all the pretenses and trade for Wood now.

Wood was a decent, but not great, Cubs closer in his first full season back from constant shoulder miseries in 2008. One of the most admired men in the clubhouse, Wood would not have departed if Hendry didn’t need his projected salary to pay for Milton Bradley, the Cubs’ biggest mistake since letting Greg Maddux walk via free agency in 1992. Little did Hendry know the Bradley debacle would have such far-reaching consequences, like a domino effect.

The Cubs simply cannot put untested kids in the eighth-inning role. Middle relief is fine, break ‘em in there the way the Atlanta Braves used to bring up their talented pitchers and place them in a no-pressure situation. There are no Bruce Sutters or Lee Smiths coming up through the farm system. For a change, the best Cubs prospects are position players.

Wood  can still throw in the mid-90s, but he’s not consistent enough to close anymore. He can still fill in when Carlos Marmol isn’t available. By the way, someone savvy would need to counsel Marmol, who has pined for the closer’s job for three years, that his role is not threatened at all. But Wood’s veteran stature, his knowledge of the pressure surrounding all things Cub and the fact he won’t wet his pants in a tight spot in the eighth make him the best man for the job now. His motivation would be unquestioned, and he’d be coming home after having moved here full-time from longtime quarters in the Phoenix area.

Besides, Wood’s stature is such that he’d be a great counsel to younger pitchers when Maddux, now a kind of utility honcho assisting Hendry, is not around. For years Wood bristled when questioned about his awry mechanics. More recently he admitted to mediocre mechanics in salvaging his career.  He’s become baseball street-smarts over the years, and is a true Cub like Maddux. Even Carlos Zambrano deferred to Wood when he pitched in Chicago.

Manager Lou Piniella suggests that those who wash out in the competition for the fourth and fifth starters’ jobs can simply be shifted over to the bullpen. Maybe, but not for the key setup job. Forget about batting-practice pitcher Carlos Silva, who looked like a candidate for release off his embarrassing first spring start against the White Sox.  Jeff Samardzija hasn’t handled that kind of pressure before. Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall are lefties, and a right-hander is sorely needed.

If Hendry and Ricketts have given this some thought, they better not pause in reflection, Andy MacPhail-style. The Minnesota Twins likely will be trolling for a  “name” reliever with the probable loss of closer Joe Nathan to elbow surgery. The Twins are built to win now, particularly in a season of opening up Target Field.  They have to do something to counteract the superior pitching of the White Sox in the American League Central.

All Wood will cost is a couple of non-essential bodies and a little money. Now Ricketts is learning that if you want to run a winning, big-market team, better have a lot of cash in reserve.


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  1. collapse expand

    What’s Pitcher of the Century Mark Prior up to these days? (by pitcher of the century, I mean 1909-2009.)

  2. collapse expand

    We need so much, this is hardly it, but I agree. What we really need is a mountain of cash. We need Wood and another bullpen guy. We need one, if not two more starters. (Are we still so sure Big Z is a legitimate ace?)We still never found another bat, much less a left handed bat. Can we just sit back and hope Fukudome learns how to play? We stand a possibility of being competitive, but if lee, zambrano, or ramirez goes down, we are out for the count.

  3. collapse expand

    We should also hire a random pitcher who throws hard that we dont care about and Jose Offerman. That way, on June 22-24, we can throw at the head of a certain outfielder and chase him around the field while brandishing a baseball bat. It needs to be done.

  4. collapse expand

    Kerry Wood as set-up guy makes good sense. I have to think that Kerry would love to come back here, and at this stage in his career (and for the reasons you state) he would be a great fit. Boy, what a messy trail Bradley left! (As for baseball karma, I just found a Mark Prior t-shirt while cleaning out a closet. Needless to say, it ended up in the rag bag.) Since I’m in my pre-season “glass half full” mode, I’m going to think good thoughts and trust Ricketts to fix this. My glass usually starts emptying out towards June, however. Hope this year is different!

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