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.
The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.
The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.
Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.
It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.
He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.