Yesterday, rumors started swirling that Kerry Wood, who hasĀ previously suggested that he’d either retire or pitch for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, was not only far from a deal with the Cubs, but was talking with multiple clubs.

Um. What?

Worse, Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs and Wood are having trouble agreeing on the salary Wood should be paid and the appropriate length of a contract. Jerry Crasnick added that the Phillies, who need a setup man, are pursuing Wood.

Wood, himself, tweeted that he’s not considering retirement, and “[I h]ope to know where I will be playing, by the end of this week,” which squares with a suggestion he made on a TV appearance last night that he’d be deciding on a team by Friday. Wood added on Twitter, ominously, that “[a]s of now, it’s looking like I’m not going to be at the Convention,” which starts on Friday.

Cause for concern? Negotiating tactic? Ploy to generate some excitement?

Taking it all in, it seems more likely that Wood is receiving feelers from other teams – like the Phillies – because he hasn’t yet re-signed with the Cubs. And, with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer disinclined to “pay for past performance,” it’s possible that Wood is receiving better offers from other teams than he’s receiving from the Cubs. Armed with those offers, Wood could understandably be trying to get more money/years out of the Cubs. He may not like what he’s hearing.

But that doesn’t mean Wood is genuinely considering signing with another team. It’s just as plausible that the Cubs and Wood are close to a deal, but simply need to clear out a 40-man roster spot for him before the deal can be finalized. I have a hard time believing that Epstein and Hoyer don’t appreciate the risk associated with letting Wood sign with another team – he’s a good reliever, and that’s always useful, but let’s be clear: much of Kerry’s value is as a fan favorite. In an environment where more casual fans are going to need something to attach to in 2012, letting Kerry go could be a significant financial mistake. Paying for “future performance” does’t always just mean performance on the field.

And, given the impending Cubs Convention, it seems likely that both sides would like to finalize something this week so that Wood can be a “Cub” at the “Cubs Convention.”

Yes, the Cubs could sign Wood today and dump a superfluous pitcher off of the 40-man. But, because the Cubs have several irons in the trade fire (Garza, Byrd, Soriano), they might as well wait to see if a 40-man spot is opened up organically this week before dumping a player.

Whatever the case, I still expect Wood to be a Cub come Spring Training.

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