With a payroll budget that figures to leave little room for big-shot free agents, indications are that general manager Jim Hendry is focusing more on the likes of lefty-hitting Nick Johnson — if the medicals look good enough — for first base and is keeping an eye on former Cub Kerry Wood’s status for a possible bullpen job.
The Cubs’ offseason priorities are adding a starting pitcher, a right-handed reliever and a first baseman.
Hendry, who is in Arizona for the team’s annual organizational meetings in preparation for the GM meetings later this month, would not comment on his interest in Wood or any other potential targets.
”Everyone knows I have a wonderful relationship with Kerry, and that will be a life-lasting one,” he said. ”But to get into specifics now … would be foolish.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.
We’ve already discussed Wood a fair bit. The primary question is whether the Cubs can squeeze the $4 or 5 million he’ll cost into their budget, while still finding a fit at first base. If so, he’ll be a Cub again.
Speaking of first base, this is the first we’ve heard about the Cubs looking at Nick Johnson. Reader KB is probably on the floor in a gleeful seizure just thinking about the OBP machine being on the Cubs, but Johnson comes with obvious limitations. Health, as noted, is the big one – in the last four seasons combined, he’s played just 192 games. Yo. He’s 32 and coming off another surgery, this one on his wrist in May. As the Cubs learned with Derrek Lee, a wrist injury can forever change a player’s effectiveness at the plate.
When healthy, Johnson’s a solid defensive player who is going to get on base. Despite hitting just .167 last year, he still put up a massive .388 OBP. For his career, he’s got a .401 OBP and .443 SLG. That’s not quite as much power as you’d like out of first base, but for the huge OBP, I know I’d certainly take it. Last season may have been the first year in Johnson’s decline, but if not, he can be counted on to put up those same numbers, albeit in 50 or 60 games.
Another in the plus column? Johnson will come cheap: he made just $5.75 million last year with the Yankees, who declined a 2011 option for just $5.5 million. Given the injury history and the uncertainty of future performance, Johnson is likely to get a deal like Xavier Nady’s last year – a couple/few million guaranteed, and more on top if he plays enough.
While Adam Dunn and Adrian Gonzalez may be the preferred options, Nick Johnson could prove a cheap, effective stop-gap, so long as the Cubs don’t count on him for 162 games.