I'm checking in for the first time in more than a month because yesterday was such a significant day for Chicago baseball: Kerry Wood will be leaving the Cubs, after GM Jim Hendry declined to pursue a contract with him. It's not totally surprising because even if Wood would (heh-heh) have settled for less than market value to stay in Chicago, he would have commanded a multi-year deal that wouldn't have made sense, given Carlos Marmol's apparent readiness to be the closer.
The Cubs also traded once-ballyhooed minor league pitcher Jose Ceda to the Marlins yesterday for Kevin Gregg, who is now the Cubs' closer insurance if Marmol isn't ready. At least, I'm assuming that will be the case, and not that Gregg will be given the closer job out-right. If Gregg is presumed to be the new closer, the Cubs just downgraded slightly, as Gregg walked twice as many men as Woody did last season (36 to 18) in about the same number of innings (68.1 to 66.1). I do worry about Marmol's emotional readiness. Part of Wood's successful transition to closer was that he became very cold-blooded early last season, a state which was never more apparent than when he paralyzed Prince Fielder with that well-placed curveball on Sept. 16 to end a 10-pitch at-bat and the game. That had to be one of my favorite moments from last year.
Wood will be missed, especially if he does well somewhere else--and that could even be in the Central Division, with Milwaukee and St. Louis both wondering who their closers will be. Wood had such a star-crossed career here that some may say the Cubs and Wood should have parted ways sooner. Say what you want about his durability, but ultimately, Woody has reached the postseason four times in 10 years as a Cub, and that's how I will choose to remember him.
The next question is, what will the Cubs do with the money they may have saved by cutting Wood loose. The talk about Peavy has been intriguing. Will the Cubs pull off a trade that may involve Dempster and then fish for another free agent starter? We'll see.
On the other side of town, the White Sox traded Nick "Dirty 30" Swisher and minor league pitcher Kanekoa Texeira to the Yankees for two minor league pitchers and Wilson Betemit, who a multi-position Mark DeRosa type. That could mean Juan Uribe won't be back, though we have all heard that before.
Betemit is a good acquisition, though he has never really fulfilled his promise as a hitter. If you look at Swisher's stats from last season, you have to say the Sox got a great deal, but many observers, SBW included, think Swish will rebound in '09. It's a little disconcerting the Sox also shipped Texeira, who was unhittable last year at A and AA. The Sox received two somewhat more experienced hurlers in Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez, but neither seems to be a real stand-out.
The Sox had earlier picked up one-time Rockie Jayson Nix to press Chris Getz at second base. Nix actually lost the starting job in Colorado last year and went to the minors, but he's decent hitter and has the speed asset Ozzie highly valued by the Sox. Other news we've all heard: Junior Griffey and Toby Hall are gone, and center field remains open.