December 19th, 2010 02:47 PM
Kerry Wood returns to the Cubs
In a move which may help the Cubs players who have thought of him as the current day "Mr. Cub," the team announced Friday that they had re-signed Kerry Wood to a one-year, 1.5 million contract. It's a move that not only makes sense for the Cubs, it continues to demonstrate why I've always been a Kerry Wood fan, even in spite of the health issues that have bothered his career over the years.
"Wood compiled a 77-61 record, 3.65 ERA and 34 saves in 10 seasons with the Cubs. He burst onto the scene in 1998, striking out 20 on May 6 in his fifth big league start, which tied a Major League record, and won the NL Rookie of the Year honors that year."
With the Yankees expressing interest in Carlos Zambrano, bringing Wood back will give "Big Z" a reason to return to the "comfort" he had in hiding in Wood's (and Mark Prior's) shadow for so many years of his career, when he wasn't expected to be the top-banana of the pitching scene on the north-side of town. Zambrano appeared to have found "it" again in the last 2 months of 2010, after having lost "it," or at least any sense of consistent productivity (even in spite of a no-hitter against Houston in Milwaukee in late 2009) in the 2 years that Wood has been gone from the Cubs.
The Cubs have also added left-handed hitting first-baseman Carlos Peņa via free-agency. Like Wood, Peņa's contract is only a one year deal. These may be the only "big moves" the Cubs make this off-season, as they appear to be contented to see what younger players from the system can bring to the table as the team is forced to eat the contracts of under-performers such as Alfonso Soriano and Koseke Fukudome.
If Peņa can re-find his hitting stroke (.196 in 2010 with Tampa is not all that reassuring to me) Wrigley Field may well be his resurrection. For old-time Cubs fans he will be a reminder of Leon Durham, a big, hard-hitting player from the early to mid-1980's. He does have a better glove than Durham had (which wasn't a bad one to begin with) and will be a better defensive fit at first-base than any other option the Cubs currently have in-fold.
The Cubs rotation will again feature Zambrano, Dempster and Wells, with 2 spots totally up-for-grabs. Tom Gorzellany and Carlos Silva both have their own issues to overcome, and even Randy Wells has to show that winning consistently can be part of his repertoire.
The bullpen will again feature Carlos Marmol as closer, Wood as set-up man (reversing their roles from 2008) and youngsters like Justin Berg, Andrew Cashner and Jeff Stevens. Youngsters like Thomas Diamond and Casey Coleman could likely supplant someone in the starting rotation if they (especially Coleman) can continue to demonstrate that they belong in the bigs.
Geovony Soto and Koyie Hill will again anchor the catching, with Wellington Castillo ready to either move one of them out, or be trade bait himself.
Third-base is still firmly in the hands, feet and bat of Aramis Ramirez. Shortstop will continue to improve with the development of Starlin Castro, and if Peņa can hit, 1st-base should be in decent hands.
The big infield question will be what happens at 2nd-base. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Soriano gets moved back into the infield as the Cubs currently have no-one in camp who is all that remarkably better than he at that position.
The outfield is over-crowded yet again as Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin, Koseke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano will rotate between the 3 positions unless Soriano gets moved. One of the problems here, as well, is that the Cubs have a couple of more guys that might prove to be ready for big-league experience. It's actually a nice "problem" for new manager Mike Quade to have.
While this might sound like "more of the same" to most observers of the Cubs, this is a team which seriously underperformed in 2010. While I'm not ready to say that they're going to contend for the Division title, this is not a team which will continue to struggle against teams it should beat, and is a team which, as it grows together, should eliminate much of the eye-rolling that even die-hard fans suffered through in 2010.
Welcome Back Kid K!!