What About Kerry Wood?
Here’s a fine idea for the Mets’ 2009 closer: Kerry Wood.
After trading for Kevin Gregg for the purpose of pushing Carlos Marmol into the closer role, the Cubs more or less have decided that Kerry Wood does not fit into their 2009 plans. Per Cubs GM Jim Hendry:
“Because of our relationship, you never close the door for life with somebody like Kerry Wood. But honestly, we feel for his own good and for the good of him and his family, there’s going to be a longer and more lucrative deal somewhere else than there would be here now, and it would be unfair to keep it dangling for another month or so. …
“We don’t have to get into how [highly] I think of him. Everyone knows that. But I don’t think we can do for him right now what he deserves and what I think he’ll get going elsewhere.”
After saving 34 games, and striking out 84 in 53 innings, Wood would appear to be high on the Mets’ wish list. And though many pundits have surmised that would be the case, all we keep hearing from Flushing is that the Mets are ready to offer multiyear, lucrative deals to Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes.
What’s going on here?
K-Rod is a top target for obvious reasons, so I get that. I’m concerned about his sharp drop in velocity, and don’t feel he should get a five-year contract, but still, it makes sense to put him at the top of the list. Why in the world Brian Fuentes would be more desirable than Kerry Wood, however, defies logic.
First of all, Fuentes is 33 years old and looking for a four-year deal at Billy Wagner money. We can all agree he’s nowhere near Wagner’s talent — even at his best — and therefore not worth that kind of commitment. Furthermore, his low arm slot and sling-like delivery suggests an elbow injury is on the way. But most importantly, he is just one year removed from being demoted from the closer role during the heat of a pennant race. If Fuentes can’t cut it in Colorado, how the heck is he to handle New York? Especially if he signs a huge contract and is expected to fill Wagner’s shoes as an ace reliever?
On the other hand, Kerry Wood is two years younger and likely would accept a two-year deal for less money. His shoulder problems are a concern, for sure, but he seems finally to have found a role in which he can remain healthy, and showed no issues last year. Either Wood or Fuentes is a risk, and I’d rather take a two-year risk than a four-year risk. In fact, because of his shoulder woes, Wood could be signed at a bargain price, with incentives built in to protect the Mets from disaster.
And although Chicago is the “second city”, it still is a much bigger stage than Denver. Chicago is one of the top three baseball cities in terms of rabid fans and media scrutiny, and Wood has coped well ever since storming onto the scene as a 21-year-old rookie. That history would suggest he’ll be well-equipped to handle the pressures of playing a big role in New York City. In addition, if by chance he did sign for a less-expensive deal, the pressure would be less burdensome than someone else coming in on a monster deal.
If history is any indicator, the silence from the Mets regarding Kerry Wood may be a good thing. In offseasons past, the Mets have made some “out of nowhere” signings (i.e., Scott Schoeneweis, Yorvit Torrealba) so perhaps Wood is indeed on the radar — but they’re keeping that fact close to their vest. He may not be the best reliever available, but he could be best bargain.