Imagining a pinstriped reunion with Kerry Wood

Scouting The Waiver Market: Fernando Martinez
Yankees interested in re-signing Luis Ayala
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last off-season might have gone a bit differently if not for Kerry Wood’s desperate desire to again pitch in Chicago. After coming over to the Yankees at the 2010 trade deadline, Wood impressed all observers, allowing just two runs himself, plus one inherited runner, in 26 IP. In the playoffs he continued his impressive pitching, allowing just two runs in eight innings. After the season Wood became a free agent, and the Yankees expressed desire in re-signing him. But Wood yearned for his professional roots in Chicago so deeply that he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Had Wood been more open to a more lucrative one-year deal with the Yankees, they would not have signed Rafael Soriano.

This off-season, Wood has changed his tune. While he’d reportedly like to stay in Chicago, he won’t sign quite so cheaply this time. Rather than give one team preferential treatment, Wood seeks a market value deal for his services. The latest, from Dave Kaplan of (via MLBTR), speculates that Wood’s “days as a Cub appear all but over.” The Cubs apparently offered Wood a “substantial” raise over last season, but apparently it is not to his liking. That opens the market for him.

The Yankees have a relatively stacked bullpen, so Wood’s presence is not a necessity. As Mike noted recently, there are only two remaining bullpen spots and plenty of candidates to fill them. Since one will likely go to a long reliever — which they will need if they plan to start the season with Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett in the rotation — that leaves only one spot for Wood. It’s unlikely that the Yankees want to fill out their bullpen with unmovable bodies right now, so a Wood reunion is nothing but a fantasy. Yet it remains intriguing. A stacked bullpen can help bandage a wounded rotation until reinforcements arrive. Having Wood, Soriano, David Robertson, and eventually Joba Chamberlain* available to pitch later in games, the Yankees could seal down victories even if their starters go five innings and give up four runs.

*Unless, of course, Joba goes to the rotation. /troll’d

The bullpen situation isn’t the only one holding back the Yankees from making this move. They also have budgetary issues. The Yankees could decide to expand the budget in order to augment the starting rotation. But to make a budget-expanding decision for another relief pitcher? It seems unlikely. While there’s not a ton of risk in the move — it would cost around $4 million for one year — there’s also limited upside. Again, it would be reinforcing an area of strength. That can help in some ways, but it probably won’t make a huge impact.

Still, it’s tough to think of Wood and not remember his glorious run from August through October, 2010. His very first appearance set the tone for his tenure. He came in to relieve CC Sabathia in the 7th inning of a game in Tampa, striking out the final batter of the inning. He then walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth and then allowed a single before striking out the next two guys and then loading the bases with a walk. Chad Gaudin had to finish the job, but that’s because Joe Girardi didn’t yet know what he had in Wood. For the next three months Wood got the Yankees out of numerous jams, many of which were of his own creation. It wasn’t quite magical, but it was certainly something different. It’s the kind of run that makes fans want the player back with their team, despite the possible irrationality of it.

Many contenders could use bullpen help, and plenty of them likely have $4 or $5 million they could pay Kerry Wood. They also might have more prominent setup roles. This, combined with the Yankees’ needs elsewhere, makes it unlikely we’ll see a clean shaven Kerry Wood donning pinstripes in 2012. It’s a nice thought, given how well he pitched in 2010. But right now the case for bringing in Wood is based on nostalgia. That’s probably not something that will convince the Yankees brass to make the move.

Scouting The Waiver Market: Fernando Martinez
Yankees interested in re-signing Luis Ayala
  • CJ

    I agree. I was just thinking about the same point. If the yanks paid wood say $4m/1 year to make up for 1.5 hometown deal then Soriano would never have happened. Wood looked really good and comfortable in the pinstripes. I think rangers (texas hometown) or phillies will sign him.

  • Nathan

    Wood was an excellent setup man. Reminded me of a Gordon, only better.

    • vin

      I don’t want to get into a comparison between the two, especially given Wood’s very SSS with the Yanks, but Gordon was great for the Yankees. If anything, blame Torre for overworking him in ’04… 89 innings for a team that made the playoffs by 10 games. Gordon got into 17 games in Sept, 3 more than any other month that year. That’s just pushing your luck and not seeing the whole picture, especially when you’re talking about a 36 year old who had pitched great the previous 5 months, was under contract for another year, and was about to enter the postseason where the teams’ primary weakness was starting pitching.

      End of rant.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I liked Wood, but he made the mistake of rejecting us and a better contract. He should have known that allegiances in baseball are subject to change in the blink of an eye. There is probably no room now in the bullpen nor the money he may want.

  • nsalem

    I’d much rather see 4 million spent on Wood for 1 year than 15 million per on Jackson for 4. Not that they are tied into on another.

  • OldYanksFan

    Any idea of what kind of contract would et him?

  • Dropped Third

    Wood or Ayala please.

    • jsbrendog

      relievers being what they are i doubt ayala puts up a year like he did last year. let someone else pay him and go with what is in the bullpen now. maybe wood but again it is only a fantasy because you need a long man and don’t want to tie the entire bp up with guys whocant be sent down without being lost. jobber comes back and he moves into a spot. then what if you have wood? who is your long man?

      • jsbrendog

        they could trade wade i guess in that scenario. or…move jobber to the rotation (never gonna happen i know. forgive me my guilty pleasures, it’s the only thing that keeps me sane)

  • BK2ATL

    I really respected Wood’s effort with us in 2010. That being said, WuTang luv the kids…. Let’s give the kids 1st dibs this time around.

    We really have no need or place for Wood right now. Plus, he really wants to stay in Chicago, which is why he took decidedly less money last year to play there.

    We don’t need Ayala either….

  • Brooklyn Ed

    If only Wood could start again….


  • james

    I liked wood when he was here, but I would rather see the 5-6 million it will cost to get him be used on a rental SP. I would rather Gamble on Oswalt with that money.

    • jsbrendog

      oswalt will need double that most likely.

      • jsbrendog

        last yr was his worst statistical season overall and he still was worth 1.7 bwar and 2.5 fwar.

      • james

        Oh I know he will be around double that. I would guess Oswalt signs around 12-14 million on a one year deal. Probably closer to 12, but our bullpen is good enough. It’s like adding 100 more horse power to a car with 500 horsepower when the brakes are still stock.

  • craig

    The Red Sox should be all over Wood. That would help them hedge their bullpen risks with a good late-inning guy. I would him on the Yankees, but it just doesn’t make sense.

    • vin

      Agreed, the Sox signing him makes quite a bit of sense. If they can make a solid bullpen, they’ll have a bit less pressure in keeping Bard in the rotation.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    Wood to the, um, 5th!

    • vin

      I can’t wait until Joba returns…

      9 Rivera
      8 Robertson
      7 Soriano
      6 Wood (veteran presents)
      5 Joba
      4 Wade

      I’d sign a ROOGY to go with Logan, so that if the starter can’t get through three innings, Girardi can mix and match those two, and then hand it off to the greatest bullpen of all time. That’s almost AJ proof.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        It’s too bad Soriano is such the albatross that prevented the team from bringing in both Papelbon and Joe Nathan.

  • Shamus

    Sign Wood, Joba to the rotation when he’s back and healthy

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      Bring Catfish Hunter back to life.

    • Kevin Winters

      That makes too much sense so the Yankees won’t do it

  • Lysol

    98% strand rate with the Yankees. A totally unsustainable clip. He’s good, but to be honest, our bullpen doesn’t really need much fixing. And if we go for pitching, please no guys that just had luck on his side like he did those months.

  • peggy musto

    Great web site. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks for your effort!