Cubs

Wood ready to contribute on Cubs

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Wood ready to contribute on Cubs

In dealing away arguably the best relief pitcher in the game in Sean Marshall, the Cubs had to be getting something good in return.

While the two prospects were a definite plus, Travis Wood was the biggest part of the deal coming back to Chicago.

"The organization needs more starting pitching, both at the big-league level and in the minor leagues," Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a conference call Friday after the trade became official. "You've got to start somewhere. We're really happy to acquire Travis Wood.

"Twenty-four-year-old left-handed starters who have already had success in the big leagues don't grow on trees. We had to give up a great relief pitcher in Sean Marshall, somebody we were proud to call a Cub. We think to acquire Wood and the two young guys, it was worth doing."

Wood found success right away in the big leagues in 2010, compiling a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 17 starts. He even put up a near-perfect game in a duel with perennial Cy Young winner Roy Halladay.

He struggled in 2011, however, bouncing between the Reds and their Triple-A affiliate last season. He struggled to the tune of a 4.84 ERA and 1.49 WHIP while giving up 10 hits per nine innings.

"We still think all the ingredients are there to make him an excellent starting pitcher in the big leagues," Epstein said. "You're not be able to get guys like that after their strong rookie years. Sometimes, you have a chance to get them after they take a little bit of their lumps on the learning curve and that was how we see last year.

"It was a good developmental year for him. Hopefully he can come in and learn from what he went through last year and pick up where he left off in 2010."

When the Reds traded for Mat Latos last weekend, Wood was kind of the odd man out in the Cincinnati rotation.

"This trade is a great opportunity for me," the Arkansas native said his southern twang. "The Reds do have a lot of depth in their rotation, whether they'd fit me in there or not. I was kind of back and forth between the rotation and starting in 2011, so hopefully I'll get to Chicago and be able to make a difference."

Besides the opportunity to have an impact in the rotation, Wood will probably benefit just from leaving Cincinnati.

In 15 career games (13 starts) at Great American Ballpark -- a notorious hitter's paradise -- Wood has a 5.30 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and .294 batting average against. In 24 games (22 starts) on the road, those numbers drop to 3.58, 1.18 and .237.

He also boasts a 3.38 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and .133 batting average against in two games at Wrigley Field.

"I think I'm feeling very comfortable," Wood said. "I like Wrigley Field and everything, so we're just going to go out there and take it a day at a time and see what happens."

The former second-round pick will turn 25 in February, but is under team control through 2016, a point that was very important to Epstein and his front office staff.

"I believe this fits what we're trying to do in the bigger picture," Epstein said. "Age is one thing, but years of control is another important factor."

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: