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The End Of The Kerry Wood Era

This afternoon, the Cubs traded Jose Ceda to the Marlins for Kevin Gregg.

I'm not thrilled with this deal as Gregg is a mid-level closer who had two decent, but not outstanding, seasons as the Marlins' 9th inning pitcher the last two years. Gregg turns 31 in June and his K totals were down last year compared to 2007. The one thing he does well is not allow the long ball -- only three in 68.2 innings in 2008. One of those homers was the three-run jack that Daryle Ward hit to win this game on August 15 in Miami. Also, Gregg had knee problems that forced him to have surgery for left patellar tendinitis two weeks ago. He's supposed to be ready for spring training.

On the other hand, Kerry Wood's numbers were almost identical to Gregg's last year -- except he issued fewer walks. Unfortunately, this trade apparently means the end of Kerry Wood's tenure as a Cub, said GM Jim Hendry in a conference call:

"We felt it was time Kerry goes out and does what is best for him and his family and get a huge multiyear deal, if possible," Hendry said. "This is really the right thing to do. We’ve had some really honest conversations in the last week. We don’t have to get into how much I think of him, but at the same time I don’t think we could do for him right now what he deserves and what I think he’ll get going elsewhere."

I guess I understand this -- that article also says that the Cubs are looking to keep Ryan Dempster and add a lefthanded hitter, and although payroll is apparently going to be increased, there appear to be some limits to this.

The problem I have is that Kerry Wood is the face of the franchise. He has been loyal to the Cubs far beyond what most players would have done in similar situations, and the Cubs returned that loyalty by keeping him a year ago when he could have had a larger deal elsewhere. Many of you think I make too much out of clubhouse chemistry, but Kerry Wood was one of the leaders of this team, someone others, not just pitchers, looked up to. Who's the face of the franchise now? Bat-breaking Carlos Zambrano? Quiet Derrek Lee? Maybe Geovany Soto could step up in a couple of years, but it seems a bit early for that. I'm very sad that Wood, who is one of my favorite players, is going to be in another uniform next year -- and the team 90 miles to the north in Milwaukee is looking for a closer and I'm guessing Doug Melvin would love nothing more than to stick it to the Cubs by offering Wood a three or four year deal.

Now wouldn't you hate that? The thought of Wood in a Brewers uniform makes me sick. Let's hope some American League team -- the Angels, maybe, who might lose K-Rod -- will sign him and we won't have to worry about that.

As far as the deal itself, I hope that Carlos Marmol will now be given the full chance to take the closer's spot, with Gregg as his setup man, and someone who could step in if Marmol fails -- I don't expect that, I think Marmol is ready to close in the major leagues. I'm not that thrilled with losing Jose Ceda, but he has pitched only half a season above A ball and I suspect the Cubs didn't think he had harnessed his command yet. Maybe Ceda will become a good major league pitcher, but that could be two or three years away (though the way the Marlins promote their minor leaguers, maybe sooner).

This is a sad day in Cubs history as they part ways with someone who has been exemplary in every way, as a ballplayer and a human being. I will miss him.