Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was on the road Tuesday, perhaps courting free-agent second baseman Kaz Matsui, who played for the National League champion Colorado Rockies.
Hendry wouldn't give his location, but the Cubs are hot after Matsui. Despite reports that the Houston Astros are close to signing Matsui, the Cubs appear to be very much in the running.
"I'm out on the road doing what we would normally be doing this time of year, trying to work hard at gathering a few good men for the 2008 season," Hendry said, sounding not unlike a recruiter for the U.S. Marine Corps. "The moves that we need to make are just as important as the larger moves we had to make last year."
Hendry said the Cubs are looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder and a left-handed hitter who can play the infield and give the Cubs some versatility.
Matsui, 32, bats left-handed, and he plays second base. With the Rockies this year, he batted .288 with an on-base percentage of .342 to go along with 4 homers, 37 RBI and 32 stolen bases. Matsui's OBP was well above his lifetime mark of .325.
The pursuit of Matsui may be vexing to many Cubs fans, largely because the Cubs have the dependable Mark DeRosa (.371 OBP this year) to play second base.
The Cubs apparently feel they need Matsui's left-handed bat and that DeRosa can play second base, third base and the outfield.
Hendry also likes Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who has declared free agency but has yet to say if he'll change teams in Japan or come to North America. Fukudome, a left-handed hitter, is an on-base machine. He may not make his decision before the year ends.
Outfielders Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay) and Ryan Church (Washington) also are on Hendry's radar, but neither of their teams is easy to deal with in trade talks.
Whither Woody? The Cubs don't appear close to re-signing reliever Kerry Wood, a member of the organization since 1995. Wood is a free agent who may get offers from other clubs of two years and perhaps $10 million total.
The Cubs look to be interested in an incentive-laden one-year deal with a club option based on health incentives for Wood, who came back from non-surgical rehab of his right shoulder this year.
"Pat Rooney (Wood's agent) and I have had discussions at least every other day the last couple weeks," Hendry said. "Kerry is getting a lot of action around the industry. We're hopeful he'll want to remain a Cub. I believe that probably before we get to the winter meetings that will be brought to a conclusion.
"We certainly would like to have him back."