Travis Wood, the Cubs' only All-Star, did not participate in Tuesday night's game. (Neither did four other National League pitchers.) This means he came out of the game uninjured and ready to make his next start, the most important thing for any All-Star.
Wood has been one of the best starters in the N.L. this season, consistent, giving his team a chance to win in almost every one of his 19 starts. Unfortunately, they haven't; the Cubs are 7-12 in those 19 games, largely due to poor run support. Wood ranks 53rd of 66 qualified starters in the N.L. in run support, just 3.5 runs per start.
So clearly, Wood's a guy the Cubs should keep around. Here's what Wood has to say about that:
Wood knows he has work to do but would love to be part of the team’s blueprint for success and be in line for a contract extension like the ones signed by Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro in the previous 11 months. "Theo and Jed and them are moving in the right direction," Wood said. "We’ve got a great group of guys there, and everybody plays hard and as of late we’ve played solid ball. ... I’d love to be a part of the core group and stay around Chicago for a while, but that’s out of my hands. So I just take the ball every time they give it to me and try to help the team win."
Wood will be arb-eligible next year, and is under team control for three more seasons. He's making $527,000 this year as a pre-arb player, and is likely in line for a huge raise in arbitration next offseason. He's 26, has no injury history, and appears not only durable, but exactly the kind of guy you'd like to have in your rotation for years to come. Plus, as long as there's no DH in the N.L., Wood provides value beyond his pitching, as he is hitting .250/.289/.444 this year (9-for-36, a double, two home runs).
Personally, I'd like to see the Cubs offer Wood a contract extension; there's no reason you couldn't give him a five-year deal, which (presumably) would cover his best seasons. If you're a little concerned about possible injury, make some of those years options, or incentive-based, or both. A deal similar to Starlin Castro's would work for me.
Wood's becoming respected, if not feared, among other National Leaguers. From the link above, a quote from former teammate Joey Votto:
He likens Wood to fellow All-Star Cliff Lee, who works out with the Cubs pitcher in the offseason in their native Arkansas. "He’s a tough left-hander," Votto said. "It’s a little bit like facing Cliff Lee, but he’s not quite as tall and he’s more willing to throw out pitches. ... I’m really, really proud of him. I’m really happy for him, and he’s a real handful to face now whenever we play Chicago."
Who knew that a pitcher named "Wood" could still be part of the Cubs' future success after Kerry Wood retired? Travis Wood could be another of those building blocks; he's already made the Sean Marshall trade the best one Theo and Jed have made in their time with the Cubs.