The afternooon started out so promising.
Upon hearing of the Chicago Cubs’ trade of Double-A pitcher Jose Ceda to the Florida Marlins for closer Kevin Gregg on Thursday, one of my initial thoughts was a good one.
Follow me for a second here.
The latest rumors swirling around the proposed deals for San Diego ace Jake Peavy involved the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves as front-runners. But for the Cubs to match any package the Braves could put together, it was thought the North Siders would have to include a third team in the trade.
And with the Padres waving goodbye to closer Trevor Hoffman earlier this week, and, you know, the Cubs trading for a closer, well, maybe I got a little ahead of myself, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Cubs were working on the necessary pieces to woo the Padres free of Peavy.
And then my buddy and fellow Cubs fan Mike buried me with the e-mail.
The Cubs have broken off contract talks with Kerry Wood, who closed this season for Chicago and has been the team’s longest-tenured player.
And my heart sank.
Through my blue-pinstriped-colored glasses, I’m dying inside to see Woody go. I can remember when he had that devastating curve ball 10 years ago, back when he had natural ligaments in his right elbow and fanned 20 Astros. And I can remember the heartache of waiting around for him to get over injuries so he might be able to recover at least some of that magic.
And to an extent, Wood did just that this season, saving 34 games with a 3.23 ERA as the Cubs marched to their second straight NL Central crown.
But Wood, who took a hometown discount for a year last season in signing with the only team he’s ever pitched for, is a free agent this winter, and his agent believes he can command a four-year, $50 million salary.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry, who is close with Wood, says he can’t do that, and that the club needs to focus on getting Ryan Dempster re-signed while looking for some offense that isn’t afraid of trying to hit in October.
And so it hurts to see one of my all-time favorite players having to be let go. With Carlos Marmol, the Cubs may have a cheaper, and possibly a better option to slam the door in the ninth inning, but he’s been shaky at best when he’s had to fill in in that role. And Gregg isn’t necessarily the answer, either. He blew nine saves this season, tied for most in the majors. One of those came against the Cubs, whose Darryl Ward launched a ball that hasn’t landed yet to win the game.
Wood wasn’t perfect this year, was hurt (again) for a while, and he did blow six saves this season, one of them in front of me in Busch Stadium.
But should the Cubs be lucky enough to actually win a World Series in the next couple of years, something will feel like it’s missing without the big Texan, No. 34 out there.
And something else is really bothering me, other than the Peavy thing going completely out the window for good now.
The St. Louis Cardinals are searching for a closer.