Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cleveland's Kerry Wood's top seven trade destinations

Kerry Wood has his bags packed, and he's ready to travel?

Do you need any more proof than his last three appearances in back-to-back-to-back games? In those games, Wood has given up a hit (a single), no runs or walks, while striking out six altogether (he struck out the side against Cincinnati on Sunday night). He's thrown 45 total pitches, 30 of them strikes. He saved all three games.

You can say what you want about Wood. Either he really does have his bags packed, or he's finally healthy after spending the first five weeks of the season on the DL with a strained shoulder. Either way, teams needing bullpen help likely took notice, as Wood became a commodity once again.

Where might Wood be headed? Here are the top seven teams that just might come knockin'.

#7--Boston Red Sox--A lot of folks will have the Red Sox higher on the list of potential trade candidates for Wood, but I'm not one of them in a straight up deal. The Red Sox have been flat out burned over the years when dealing for relievers. In 2007, they traded a boatload of moderate prospects to the Texas Rangers for Eric Gagne. Gagne promptly exploded (a near 7 ERA). The Sox did acquire Billy Wagner in a waiver deal last year, and did acquire two picks when he signed with the Braves, but I don't see Boston swinging a deal for Wood unless it's a similar-type deal. Unfortunately, Wood has a club option (it will never vest into a player option, he has to finish 55 games), so they wouldn't receive picks should they not exercise the option. Still, should Boston's pen continue to be just adequate, Wood could be on their radar should he continue his recent performance.

#6--Detroit Tigers--The Tigers pen is one of the best in baseball, with a 3.36 ERA. So why do they need a reliever? Joel Zumaya's gruesome injury on Friday is why. Zumaya was the primary set-up man for the Tigers, and has been exceptional this season. While there are pitchers to take his slot, Wood could plug into the set-up role, leaving one of the best pens intact. With the recent injury, Detroit could be more willing to deal than other teams.

#5--Philadelphia Phillies--The Phillies pen hasn't been bad this season, but they haven't been all that good either. They rank 15th in the league in ERA at 3.93, but you can tell that Charlie Manuel has no faith in his relief corp. Brad Lidge has become a bit of a basket case over the past couple of years as the closer. Ryan Madson is currently on the 60-day DL, but has made two minor league rehab appearances, and looked good in doing it. It's believed that Madson will make two more appearances, one in AA, and one in AAA, before returning to the Phillies. I'm not sure what his role will be, but it should help. Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo are also injured. Will they return to health? With all the unknowns, the Phillies might be willing to swing a deal for Wood, who would more than support the Phillies pen, and could close as well, should Lidge become, well, Lidge.

#4--Cincinnati Reds--The Reds bullpen is currently 23rd in the league in ERA, and there are some holes. Closer Francisco Cordero has 21 saves, but his 4.14 ERA has left people questioning whether or not he should be at the back-end of the pen. Old Tribe-hand Arthur Rhodes is the set-up man, and may be the best reliever in baseball. The Reds may not want to move him out of the set-up role, or may want to make him the closer. In either case, Wood could fill in the other slot. Of course, what are the chances that the Reds are going to move out Cordero from the closer's role? More likely would be the Reds using Wood as the righty set-up man to Rhodes lefty. Thing Dos Rafael, without the Rafael. The rest of the pen has been up and down, but you aren't going to deal for Wood to be another guy in the pen. Not the best fit, although a healthy Wood puts you over the top.

#3--New York Yankees--Well, the Boston Red Sox are on this list, so you knew that the Yankees would be on here somewhere. Cliff Lee is the big fish in the trading pool, and the Yankees are, of course, in the mix. With the press focusing their attention on the starters, the Yankees are likely more focused on the relievers. Rivera is still a rock, with 17 saves in 18 chances, and a sub 1.00 ERA. Still, starting with primarly set-up man, Joba Chamberlain, the rest of the pen has been nothing but inconsistent. Chamberlain really has had only four bad outings, but there are still question-marks, in particular late in the season. David Robertson and Damaso Marte have been up and down leading up to Chamberlain. Sergio Mitre was the most consistent of the bunch, but is now on the DL. Wood could solidify the pen, and it would be interesting seeing him pitch in New York.

#2--Chicago Cubs--Obviously, Kerry Wood back to the Cubs would be an interesting story. I'm not sure how positive it would be, but all my Chicago fans insist that Wood was a leader there, and that they'd take him back in a heartbeat...especially considering the past week's developments with regards to Carlos Zambrano. Stability and a bit of good press would do nothing but help, not to mention Wood's current state of pitching. Zambrano was moved to the pen, then put on the restricted list (at least until after the All Star break), and John Grabow reinjured his left knee on Monday, after missing most of June with the same injury. He's going to be out at least three weeks. According to manager Lou Pinella,
"We've been short [in the bullpen] and really short when Grabow got hurt again."
Former Tribehand Jeff Stevens and another minor leaguer are filling in, but Wood would fill a definite need.

#1--Anaheim Angels--The Angels pen is 27th in the league with a 4.84 ERA (which is still better than the Indians, mind you), and in dire need of bullpen help. There's only one reliever with an ERA under 3.00, and three with an ERA under 4.00. One of those, Fernando Rodney, has given up four earned runs in his last seven innings of work. Another, Jason Bulger, is currently on the DL with a strained right shoulder. The final, Sean O'Sullivan, has made all of three appearances this year. Their closer, Brian Fuentes, has made 14 of 17 saves this year, and has a near 5.00 ERA. I could keep going, but it keeps getting worse. Wood, pitching the way he currently is, could immediately improve the Angels chances at the playoffs, as either the closer, or the primary set-up man, and the Angels have prospects to deal. This is far and away the worst bullpen of any contender, and a deal could be imminent.

What would the Indians get in return for the likes of Wood? If he continues to pitch well, he certainly could put names on the table that could turn into major league players. They would likely either be prospects from the low minors with a high upside, or former top prospects who need a change of scenery. Let's hope Wood can continue to show the rest of the league why the Indians paid him 30+ million, for three years.

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