Anything could still happen, and a Cubs Convention surprise has a nice public relations ring to it.
But the presently-available signs point to Kerry Wood not returning to the Chicago Cubs in 2012.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations told me late Monday night that Wood’s days as a Cub appear all but over.
“Woody wanted to be here despite the rebuilding process but while the Cubs were saying they wanted him back they were unwilling to pay him the market value for a solid set up man,” he said. “He has heard from a number of teams that are World Series contenders and they are all willing to pay him a very fair salary to strengthen their bullpen. The Cubs expected him to pitch for another hometown discount. He has already done that for them a couple of times before. There is no reason that he should have to do that again.”
This could still be part of a last-minute jockeying strategy (after all, the source is clearly from Kerry’s side), but, if you’re hoping Wood is back next year, it doesn’t look good.
Last night, Wood joined Dave Kaplan on the radio, and he didn’t express much confidence in a return. In fact, he sounded like a guy who knows he’s leaving.
“Regardless of what happens, we’re still in Chicago,” Wood said. “We’re dedicated to the city, and things will work out for me in the city of Chicago because we’re dedicated to the city, we’re dedicated to the community, we’re dedicated to helping children and again we’re staying here we’re raising the family here. I’m a Texas boy, but I feel like I’ve become a Chicagoan, so we’re happy to be here whether I finish here or whether I don’t, we plan on being here a long time.”
“Obviously it’s great to hear [Theo Epstein’s kind words about me],” Wood added. “I mean, that’s great. I don’t envy the job he has and what he’s doing right now. I think he’s got a tough job ahead of him. Moves have to be made, some that he’s already done. So, he’s not in an easy position. But again, hopefully 2, 3, 4 years down the road we’re saying that he made all the right moves, and that’s why this team is consistently in the playoffs. So we hope that happens.”
I remain of the opinion that, whatever Wood brings to the Cubs as an aging setup pitcher (he’s still good at what he does, assuming his knee returns to form) isn’t the primary reason to bring him back. He is a invaluable leader on a team expected to be full of young kids who need leading. And he’s a fan favorite. I know that doesn’t put wins on the board, and that is the most important thing. But we aren’t just cheering for laundry. I like cheering for Kerry Wood. It makes my fandom that much more enjoyable. I don’t care if that makes me sound naive or uninterested in seeing a winner.
I can be both a fan of winning and of a guy like Kerry Wood. He is, in that regard, the exception.