Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood may be the missing link to a young and improving bullpen on the north side of Chicago. A source familiar with the situation said Wood would be welcomed back to the Cubs organization if general manager Jim Hendry has enough money in the offseason to be able to sign Wood and add the other dimensions to become a contender.
The Cubs' need three major elements to contend for the NL Central in 2011 are a left-handed RBI bat, starting pitcher and a shutdown seventh-inning or eighth-inning bullpen man.
A call to Wood's agent Pat Rooney was not returned.
The Yankees on Wednesday declined the option on Wood's 2011 contract, which would have been worth $11 million. That doesn't preclude the Yankees from re-signing Wood at a later date, and at a lower number.
Wood left the Cubs after the 2008 season when he signed a multi-year contract with Cleveland.
Various injuries have punctuated Wood's career ever since he came out of Texas as a high school phenom.
The intangible of Wood's leadership and street cred with the Cubs' fan base would make re-signing Wood a win-win for the team and the player.
Wood told me during the season that his family was going to make Chicago its primary home in the offseason. Wood and his wife Sarah – a Chicago native -- have three young children with the oldest starting school. Wood and his family have kept residences in Chicago and Arizona. The Woods are known for their philanthropic endeavors, raising millions of dollars in the Phoenix and Chicago areas.
Wood will be 34 in June and still has a tear in his right shoulder, but he's been able to pitch through it over the last four seasons.
He had an 0.69 ERA in 24 games with the Yankees after being traded by the Indians on July 31 for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Wood won a career-high 14 games in 2003, including the clinching win in the postseason series over Atlanta.
His career started out on an extremely high note as he struck out 20 Houston Astros on May 17, 1998. He made the conversion to the bullpen in 2007 and became the primary closer in 2008, saving 34 games as the Cubs won the division.