Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
Daniel White | Staff Photographer
He burst onto the scene as Kid K, power in its purest form.
With a fastball consistently registering in the high 90s and a wicked, snapping curveball that buckled the knees of many a batter, the sky seemed the limit for Kerry Wood.
But then came the injuries, and soon that once powerful right arm of his was equal part albatross and arsenal.
It seemed like he could never stay off the disabled list for an extended period of time. But he kept coming back, kept working, hoping to regain his form. Most recently, after appearing in only 26 total games over two seasons in 2006-07, Wood fought back to become an all-star closer for the playoff-bound Cubs this year.
On Thursday, though, Woods' 14-year run in the Cubs' organization came to an end when general manager Jim Hendry, not willing to give Wood a lucrative, long-term free-agent deal, acquired late-inning reliever Kevin Gregg from the Florida Marlins in exchange for minor-league pitcher Jose Ceda.
It wasn't an easy call for Hendry. After all, this was the kid that came up in 1998 and in just his fifth start registered 20 strikeouts en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year. This was the only Cub to play on the last four postseason teams, including the 2003 team, the one that dropped Game 7 at home and afterward Wood famously came out to face the music, telling reporters, "I choked."
This wasn't just another player.
"I think everyone knows the relationship that Kerry and I have," Hendry said. "I don't think I've ever had a longer, more special relationship with anyone in professional baseball.
"I think we all feel that Kerry is certainly deserving of a 3- or 4-year long-term contract. He's certainly done everything this organization has asked the last 14 years. He's been a warrior."
But Wood just wasn't going to get the kind of cash and the number of years he felt he deserved from the Cubs after registering 34 saves. It just wasn't in the budget.
"We're just in a situation, as Kerry fully understands, that that length of deal for the kind salary he would command right now is not our first priority," Hendry said. "We have to finish our rotation, we have offensive situations to address.
"We feel it was time that Kerry goes out and does what's best for him and his family and gets a huge multiyear deal if possible."
Woods' departure seems to open the door for Carlos Marmol to take over as closer with Gregg, who was 7-8 with 29 saves last year with Florida, taking over the eighth-inning role.
"I think Marmol's certainly ready to pitch in the ninth, no doubt about it," Hendry said. "And so is Kevin Gregg."
Ninth inning, eighth inning, doesn't seem to matter to Gregg.
"I'm ecstatic about this trade," he said. "One of the things I've always said is that I'd love to play (at Wrigley Field). I'm just excited to be in an organization that was in the playoffs last year and is looking to compete and get back in the playoffs."
One red flag concerning Gregg, 30, is the fact he underwent knee surgery following the 2008 season.
"There's no way that anybody's worried about it," Hendry said.
"My knee surgery was kind of a maintenance issue to get me ready for 2009," Gregg said. "My doctor said I should be 100 percent going into next year."
Wood finishes his Cubs career with a 77-61 record, 1,407 strikeouts, and a legacy as one of the most popular players of his generation.
"Woody will always be a Cub," Hendry said.