Kerry Wood to announce retirement, but may pitch one last time at Wrigley Field

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Kerry Wood has struggled since returning from a disabled list stint two weeks ago, allowing five runs in six innings following a month off because of a shoulder injury, and now the one-time phenom turned quality setup man has decided to call it a career at age 34.

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that Wood will announce his retirement today following a 14-year career, but Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that Wood will be available out of the bullpen one final time for this afternoon’s game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. That would be one hell of a sendoff.

Wood burst onto the scene as a flame-throwing, unhittable 21-year-old rookie in 1998, striking out 20 batters in one of the most dominant performances in baseball history, but then blew out his elbow and missed all of 1999. He returned as a very effective starter, posting a 3.68 ERA in 138 starts from 2000-2004 and topping 200 strikeouts in three straight seasons, including a league-leading 266 whiffs in 2003.

However, after more injuries limited Wood to a total of 114 innings from 2005-2007 he shifted to the bullpen full time and established himself as a quality setup man. He was excellent for the Cubs last season, taking less money to return to Chicago and then posting a 3.35 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 51 innings, but this year he’s walked 11 batters in eight innings.

It’s a shame we never got to see what a healthy Wood was truly capable of, because the rookie who took the baseball world by storm in 1998 was absolutely amazing to watch and racked up a ridiculous 233 strikeouts in 167 innings before his arm gave out. He came back to throw 1,213 innings with a 3.71 ERA and 10.0 strikeouts per nine frames, which is a damn fine career by itself, but he made just two All-Star teams and never received a single Cy Young vote.

Wood’s right arm was capable of so much more if it didn’t let him down repeatedly, but it’s nice to see him go out as a Cub considering how much he loved Chicago. And he’ll be remembered long after pitchers with twice as many wins are forgotten.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.