Cubs Sign Wood, Shop Prior
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Nov 28, 2007 5:29PM
Two Cubs pitchers, linked by their unfulfilled promise due to injuries, may finally become uncoupled. While Kerry Wood will have an opportunity to resurrect his career with the Cubs, Mark Prior's time in Cubby blue may be finished.
Wood inked a one-year deal worth $4.2 million, while becoming the front runner to become the Cubs closer -- Ryan Dempster, after three years in that role, will return to the starting rotation in 2008.
Wood pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2007 after returning from the disabled list, compiling a 3.33 ERA while striking out 24 in 24.1 innings over 22 appearances. More importantly, he seemingly remained healthy while pitching in relief.
While Wood seems destined to remain in the pen, he could have competition for the closer role. Bobby Howry had a 1.85 ERA in the second half of the season and formerly closed for the White Sox. Carlos Marmol's 1.43 ERA was third-lowest among major-league relievers, but he's never closed before, and questions remain about whether he has the make-up to be a closer. Expect a three-way competition for the position to begin in spring training.
Which brings us back to Mark Prior. Once considered to be among the top young pitchers in the game, countless injuries over the past four seasons have limited him to just 57 starts in the past four seasons -- and none in '07.
The Cubs are looking to sign Prior to a two-year deal that's heavy on the incentives rather than face arbitration to determine a one-year contract. By signing him to for two years, they avoid the possibility he finally gets healthy and then uses '08 as a tryout for other teams before becoming a free agent next winter.
But such a deal may be difficult for the Cubs and Prior to agree to -- he may want a longer term deal and more guaranteed money. As a hedge, the Cubs have notified other teams that they'd be willing to trade Prior. Should no trade present itself and the two sides can't reach agreement on a contract, it's also possible the Cubs could simply decide not to tender an offer rather than commit too much salary to an unreliable pitcher.