Kerry Wood has turned down a one-year, $3.5 million offer from the White Sox in order to return to the Cubs for $1.5 million, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Wood, who was drafted fourth overall by the Cubs in 1995 and spent the first decade of his career calling Wrigley Field home, will likely be the primary setup man in front of closer Carlos Marmol.
Wittenmyer writes that Wood’s decision to turn down the White Sox’s far more lucrative offer “surprised even the Cubs” and he may also have turned down multi-year offers from the Yankees and Red Sox.
Wood missed all of April with a back injury and struggled for the Indians once he returned from the disabled list, but posted a 0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings following a midseason trade to the Yankees. Originally a starter–and owner of one of the best starts in baseball history–Wood has a 3.45 ERA, .213 opponents’ batting average, and 237/93 K/BB ratio in 204 career relief innings.
Given some of the two- and three-year contracts being handed out to other middle relievers, $1.5 million is an amazingly below-market deal. He probably won’t miss the extra money, as Wood has already earned over $70 million during his dozen-year career, but it’s always interesting to see someone willing to take less to play where he wants, particularly when the decision involves choosing between sides of Chicago.
Washington has been linked to just about every veteran first baseman on the market this offseason, so not surprisingly Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Nationals “have expressed interest in Derrek Lee.”
Lee is 35 years old and coming off his worst season since 1998, hitting .260/.347/.428 with 19 homers in 148 games for the Cubs and Braves, but he played nearly the entire time with a thumb injury that eventually required surgery and had posted an OPS above .800 for 10 straight seasons.
Ladson adds that the Nationals “are still in the mix for Adam LaRoche” and they’ve been linked to him throughout the offseason, so it’s unclear which first baseman is atop their wish list.
Josh Willingham is already on the roster and the Nationals could seemingly just plug him in at first base, but general manager Mike Rizzo has made it very clear he doesn’t view that as a viable option and Willingham is likely to be traded eventually.
After signing first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year, $10 million deal the Cubs have turned their attention to the rotation.
Craig reported earlier that Matt Garza could be a possibility, but Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes that Brandon Webb “remains their No. 1 target.”
Webb hasn’t pitched since Opening Day of 2009 because of a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery and Sullivan notes that “the Cubs still have to check out his medical records” before making an offer to the former Cy Young winner.
Earlier this week the Nationals were also said to be heavily pursuing Webb and according to Sullivan the Cubs are merely “one of the top two or three teams” in the mix for the 31-year-old right-hander.
Apparently looking to replace Derrek Lee at first base with another veteran the Cubs have talked to agent Scott Boras about Carlos Pena, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.
Muskat reports that general manager Jim Hendy met with Boras to “discuss” Pena, but no salary figures were exchanged.
Pena continued to show tons of power and patience this year, smacking 28 homers and drawing 87 walks in 144 games, but he batted just .196 and had a .732 OPS after posting a combined .935 OPS during his first three seasons with the Rays.
In addition to the Cubs’ interest Pena has also been linked heavily to the Nationals.
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com the Nationals and Cubs “are stepping up their pursuit of Brandon Webb” and “making a big push” to sign the former Cy Young winner amid interest from “several other clubs.”
Washington has been linked to Webb since the moment he became a free agent and Chicago’s interest was first reported a couple weeks ago.
It’ll be interesting to see if Webb can parlay multiple teams being in the mix for him into a bidding war that ultimately gets him a big chunk of guaranteed money despite his last start coming on Opening Day of 2009.
When healthy Webb was an elite starter, finishing first or second in the Cy Young balloting from 2006-2008, but he hasn’t been “right” since the first half of 2008 and the early reports on his velocity following shoulder surgery weren’t very encouraging.