Kerry Wood expected to sign by Friday; Cubs no sure thing

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Kerry Wood told NBC-5 in Chicago that he expects to sign by Friday, with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reporting that the Phillies, Tigers, Angels, and Reds are among the teams competing with the Cubs for the 34-year-old reliever.

Wood took significantly less money to sign with the Cubs last offseason and said just a couple months ago that he might opt for retirement rather than pitch for another team, but apparently something changed along with the new front office regime taking over and now he’s looking to get fair market value.

Last winter Wood accepted a one-year, $1.5 million deal from the Cubs when he was being offered multi-year deals for higher annual salaries elsewhere, including from the crosstown White Sox. This time around Salisbury reports that Wood is looking for a one-year deal worth around $4 million, which is reasonable money and may still be too much for the Phillies unless general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can get ownership to sign off on a payroll bump to add the setup man.

Wood pitched very well for the Cubs last season, throwing 51 innings with a 3.35 ERA and 57/21 K/BB ratio, so he’s certainly right to think he’s worth similar money to other veteran setup men who got one-year deals this offseason like Octavio Dotel ($3.5 million), Jon Rauch ($3.5 million), and LaTroy Hawkins ($3 million).

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.