Chicago Cubs: Should they bring back reliever Travis Wood?

The Chicago Cubs have several free agents this winter, but very few everyday players. One of the biggest–and most important–in Travis Wood. There should be plenty of opportunity elsewhere for Wood.

The Chicago Cubs have already begun the initial talks on what they want to do with their roster and pitching staff. It started with not picking up the option for Jason Hammel, allowing him to look elsewhere in a very weak market for starting pitchers. That opened the door for Mike Montgomery to move into the starting rotation. So what about Travis Wood? It’s a bit complicated.

The primary goal will be for the Cubs to see if Montgomery will work as a starter. He did well in spot starts this year (1-1, 3.28 ERA, 14 BB, 34 SO in seven starts), and has proven he can handle the role. The Cubs may look to bring in other options, Carl Edwards, Jr. for example, but he performed well in late innings and may stay in that role next season. There has also been a long-time concern about Edwards frame and handling the workload every fifth day. But his performance in late-innings has me sold that’s where he should be.

So if the Cubs do land on Montgomery for that fifth starter, Wood’s chances of returning to the team would increase. In the past, Wood could be counted on to get righties as well as lefties. But this year that wasn’t the case. He allowed a .265 average to righties while surrendering just a .125 to lefties. But much of his struggles came with heavy use in the middle of the year. Manager Joe Maddon backed off of him down the stretch, using him as more of a specialist in the last month of the season.

Loss of stuff or overworked?

Wood’s 2.95 ERA the lowest of his career, but so were his innings pitched. He tossed just 61 innings while allowing eight home runs. Just three less than he did in 100 2/3 innings in 2015. So were his struggles because of being overworked, or a loss of stuff? According to FanGraphs, the movement on his pitches hasn’t really changed. So the potential of signing Wood and him being an effective reliever again is there.

There are a few potential free agents out there that the Cubs could look at. Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan and Brett Cecil are just a few. But with Wood, you know what you’re getting. Aside from the Cubs want to bring him back, Wood’s desire to be a starter again could factor into his decision. And it’s possible with that weak market I mentioned earlier, some teams will be willing to give him that opportunity.

I can see Chicago bringing Wood back into the fold. He’s been a reliable reliever for the past four years. And I do believe that Montgomery will claim that starter spot–unless the Cubs have something up their sleeve. The offseason is young, but it’s never too early to start thinking about a repeat. I think that’s the case at least. We’ve never been here before, sort of new territory.

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