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Never Mind

It didn't take too long for Jim Hendry to shoot down the Kerry Wood for closer rumors. Mike Kiley, writing in the Sun-Times, goes on to say:

Instead, the closer is likely to be one of these four pitchers: Ryan Dempster, Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins or Joe Borowski.

None of those names fills me with great confidence, and I'm sure they probably make you shudder too.

I'd think it won't be Hawkins, because Hawkins has already proven that he is a failure in the role, and further, if he's the closer, the Cubs are without a good setup man, and Hawkins has been good in the setup role.

Borowski has the heart to be a good closer, as he showed in 2003, but he may no longer have the velocity to be a strikeout-type of closer. That doesn't mean he can't be one, only that, if healthy, he must adjust his game.

Dempster seems to have the mental makeup of a closer. Kiley quotes Jim Hendry:

He has the main ingredients I think are appropriate for the ninth inning. He has got a 94-to-96-mph fastball and a slider that most hitters will tell you is well above average, and he certainly has the makeup and fortitude that's required. He relishes the chance to do it. The role intrigues him. He'll do whatever it takes to win the game.

That's all great, but can he cut his walks down from his current career level of 4.5 per nine innings? As a starter you can get around too many walks. As a one-inning pitcher, you have much less margin for error.

And that leaves Dr. Tightpants.

Well, he does throw a baseball 100 miles per hour, and when he's right, he is virtually unhittable. It means almost nothing, but he's also had good years in the odd-numbered seasons (2001 and 2003), and sucked in even-numbered 2002 and 2004. He'll be eligible for free agency after 2005, and won't be too expensive ($1.4 million), perhaps leaving some salary room for filling other positions.

If Kyle can get his head on straight, he could be the surprise answer.

Now, on to the ongoing Sosa Sweepstakes, which could now include as many as six teams, including Atlanta and Baltimore, but probably not Washington, as Jim Bowden would ask the Cubs to eat the entire contract, something Hendry will not do.

The most intriguing rumor, floated by Phil Rogers in the Tribune today, has George Steinbrenner and the Yankees once again interested, as they were four years ago, to bring Sammy to New York, where he could be hidden at least part of the time at DH.

Further, Rogers writes:

Here's how much some owners and general managers hate dealing with [Scott] Boras: They would rather have Sammy Sosa and his bloated contract for two years than take a risk of five to eight years for Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre or J.D. Drew.

George can afford Sosa's contract, and the most interesting part of this one has Javier Vazquez being the trade bait.

Vazquez had a mediocre year in New York, is owed nearly $34 million over the next three years, and the Cubs don't really need him.

But there's a team in Chicago that not only needs him, but was rumored to be getting him as part of a possible three-way deal involving the Diamondbacks and Randy Johnson.

So how about getting Vazquez for Sosa, flipping him to the White Sox for Carlos Lee (who is scheduled to make a fairly reasonable $8 million in 2005 and who has always hit well at Wrigley Field), then using the savings to sign Beltran?

Boras may be outsmarting himself by waiting. Teams have figured him out -- I don't think you'll see them bidding against themselves any more -- and the longer he holds his key clients (Beltran, Beltre, Drew, and Magglio Ordonez) out, the less he's going to get for them.

We await developments.