It’s been rumored for a while that the Chicago Cubs approached Travis Wood with an extension after his breakout 2013 season, but, until now, that’s not something that had been confirmed, or filled out with any details.
Well, Wood, himself, seems to have confirmed that an extension was a possibility before the 2014 season that saw him fall way back. You can read Wood’s comments in this Sun-Times piece from Gordon Wittenmyer, in which Wood explains that he’s not going to beat himself up for declining to extend at the time, because you never know how things are going to play out. Wittenmyer hears that the proposed extension would have been for four years and about $8 million per year. That would have bought out Wood’s arbitration years, and one free agent year (age 30). Instead, Wood got $3.9 million last year, and agreed to another one-year deal for 2015, worth $5.685 million. He’s got one more pass through arbitration before reaching free agency.
The question, of course, is whether that pass will come with the Cubs or another team. Indeed, the 2015 season, itself, might not come with the Cubs, who’ve got a significant glut at the back of the rotation, and, if Edwin Jackson cannot be moved, Wood might be the next most logical trade candidate, given the salary savings (and the fact that he might be the most likely of the back-end candidates to actually generate some value in trade).
Wood tells reporters (Muskat, Miles, Mooney, Gonzales, Rogers) that he’s not thinking about a trade right now, which is really all you can try and do at this stage in Spring Training. He’s simply trying to get past the 2014 season.
The tough thing for the Cubs is that, if they knew they were going to get 2013 Wood, they would, of course, not even think about making a trade. Similarly, if they knew they were going to get 2014 Wood, they would unload him ASAP. But Wood’s last two years have represented almost the extreme ends of his possible outcome spectrum, given his true talent level (which is probably somewhere in the middle). If Wood was going to be that guy in the middle – a perfectly solid 4/5, who is durable, and adds value with his bat and on the bases – I don’t think there would even be a question that he’s in the rotation, even with the Cubs’ depth. And maybe having two great framing catchers in the fold this year would disproportionately help a guy like Wood, who necessarily lives at the edges of the zone.
But the reality is, for a guy whose velocity was down last year, and whose command was not as impeccable as it needs to be for him to have success, the Cubs can’t count on anything for certain with Wood in 2015. And, given his price, his possible value in trade, and the similarly uncertain (with upside) nature of others in the mix for the end of the rotation, you can see why a trade remains very much on the table.
So, for now, Wood will keep getting ready for the season with the Cubs, and, unless he’s moved, he’ll keep looking like a slight favorite to win a job at the back of the rotation. That remains a plausible outcome after an offseason of Wood rumors. Equally plausible, though, is that the Cubs decide to clear a spot and some salary after another team decides it needs to add an arm, and Wood is traded before April arrives.
It’s interesting now to think about how we might frame this entire conversation differently if Wood had signed that extension before last season.
In any case, here’s hoping Wood stays healthy and looks sharp in the early going of Spring, which could give the Cubs options one way or another. This time of year, we have to keep reminding ourselves: guys get hurt, and plans change. It’s possible that in three weeks, a couple rotation members have gotten dinged, and the thought of trading Wood is inconceivable.