Friday, February 16, 2007

Questions rise as Wood is hurt...again

It seems like every year about this time, we learn of a new injury for Kerry Wood. Though the Chicago Cubs claim that Mark Prior and Wade Miller did successfully throw off of a mound in Fitch Park on Thursday, the team reports that Kerry Wood will be sidelined four to five days after bruising his rib, while exiting his hot tub earlier in the week.

This is what is troubling to me:

According to the report, Wood suffered the injury on Monday (three days ago) and will be out another four to five days. That means that it will take an entire week for bruised rib to heal. Understandable, but why have the Cubs waited until now to inform the public?

In the past, the Cubs have been notorious for underestimating the length of recovery time for pitchers. Severely. I still remember three years ago when a five-to-ten day sideline for Mark Prior slowly turned into two weeks, then a month, then eventually three months.

I just want the club to be straight with me. What is wrong with Kerry Wood? Is he suffering all of these injuries from steriods and the team is having a hard time covering them up with lame excuses? After they've run out of legitimate excuses for long-term absences, has the team resorted to short-term excuses that progressively get longer? And when they finally ran out of those, is the team now reporting injuries that "happened" several days ago, so that they can artificially increase the recovery time? At this point, I wouldn't put it past them.

Right now, Kerry Wood doesn't concern me much. I didn't slate him to play any significant part on the team in 2007. Ryan Dempster is the closer and the rest of the bullpen looks just fine with Howry, Eyre, and Ohman. I just won't be surprised to hear in a couple of more days from now that "complications" arose from his injuries and that he would just need "a little more time" before he starts throwing. Kind of like when Wood said last year that he wasn't hurt, but was going on the disabled list anyway...

I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that Mark Prior doesn't sleepwalk into a mirror, sneeze too hard, or get hit by a comebacker in the next six weeks. Or six months, or six years. We need Prior for the rotation.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Zambrano issues ultimatum, Ryu traded

As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training (already?), the Chicago Cubs traded pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for minor leaguers Andy Lopez and Greg Reinhard.

Ryu posted an 8-8 record with a 3.23 ERA in 23 starts for Iowa (AAA) last year, despite struggling in 10 appearances with the major league club. In all, Ryu has a 36-28 record with a 3.42 ERA in 6 years with 6 different minor league teams within the Cubs organization. Lopez hit .256 with Princeton (R), while Reinhard posted a 6-10 record and a 4.50 ERA with Southwest Michigan (low-A). Ryu is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation.

The bigger news involving the Chicago Cubs, however, is the ultimatum that ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano issued. Zambrano and the team are currently set to undergo an arbitration hearing on February 20 if the two sides can not agree on a salary for the 2007 season. Of more importance, though, is the fact that Zambrano has stated if he isn't signed to a multi-year deal by February 20, he would not be a Cub in the 2008 season.

Zambrano, who tied for the league lead in wins last year, is believed to be wanting a contract similar to the one that Barry Zito received this past off-season, 7 years for $126 million.

I personally feel that the Cubs should pay Zambrano exactly what he wants. We already signed Soriano to a $136 million contract for eight years and failing to keep Zambrano on the team would be a big mistake. Without Zambrano, the value of the team decreases severely, and signing Soriano becomes a waste.

If Zambrano wants a Zito-esque contract right now, give it to him! The fact of the matter is that Zambrano stands to make much more than that should he test the waters nine months from now. If the Cubs need more time to negotiate (they've already have plenty, though), the Cubs should offer a reasonable amount to sign Zambrano for the 2007 season. Failing to avoid arbitration and/or sign Zambrano to a multi-year deal by Opening Day, however, is unacceptable.