Kerry Wood, Josh Willingham, And Dan Cortes

STEP ON HIS BUTT

That's an SEO-friendly alternative headline to "On Today's News", engineered to drive more traffic. Hello, more traffic! Up next on the traffic generation checklist: save posts for when people haven't gone to bed. I'm going to have so much traffic. Look out, Ask.com.

  • Kerry Wood signed a one-year contract with the Cubs today worth $1.5 million. If that sounds surprising to you, it should; he reportedly turned down significantly better offers from the White Sox, Red Sox, and Yankees to make a return to the Cubs a reality. It seems he wanted to go back to where it all started, and that he and his wife committed to move back to Chicago full-time once their kids started school.

    Earlier this week, a big story was that Cliff Lee made a considerable sacrifice to return to Philadelphia. In the end, it turns out he really didn't. Wood made a considerable sacrifice to return to Wrigley. He's going to make far less money, and he's going to face far worse odds of winning his first World Series.

    That Wood has earned nearly $70 million over the course of his career leaves a decision like this easier to make, of course, but it's a sacrifice nevertheless, as Wood has put his loyalty and family ahead of the usual athlete priorities. That's - that's not unique, but it's rare, and it's the kind of thing that stands to make Wood one hell of a fan favorite (again). That's one season debut that'll be fun to catch on MLB.tv.

  • Something else that happened today is that the A's traded some nobody and a guy who throws 100 miles an hour for at least a year of Josh Willingham. Now, I don't think that Willingham on his own is a major upgrade, as he pushes Ryan Sweeney to the bench, and I like Ryan Sweeney. But while they always manage to fly under the radar, it's worth looking at what the A's have managed to put together. They've added two new outfielders in Willingham and David DeJesus, and replaced Jack Cust with Hideki Matsui. They stand to return most of a pitching staff that last year finished first in ERA.

    The A's look pretty good. That their best player is probably either Daric Barton or Brett Anderson suggests that they don't have huge upside, but I don't know that huge upside will be required to compete in this division. The Angels'll be better with full years from Dan Haren and Kendry Morales, but they're flawed, and the Rangers are basically the same team except without Cliff Lee. There's no runaway favorite, and that gives the A's a real chance.

    Obviously, the picture changes if the Angels do what's expected and sign Adrian Beltre. It's also worth noting that I haven't actually crunched any numbers and am working off what I think. The only point I'm really trying to drive home with these three paragraphs is that the A's might be better than you think they are. They'll be able to do a lot of things.

  • Kirby Arnold has an update on Dan Cortes' progress in Venezuela. The good news is that, as a closer, he's 10/10 in save opportunities and has a 2.79 ERA. The bad news is that he's thrown 19.1 innings, with 13 strikeouts and 21 walks.

    21 walks. It's important not to take winterball or AFL or spring training stats too seriously, because you never know the full story, but for a guy to average more than a walk an inning shows that he's having incredible trouble finding the strike zone on a pretty consistent basis. Low strikeouts would be one thing. But elevated walks imply that a guy's not even locating his fastball. In short, as little as we can make of Cortes' numbers, no one's going to be happy about them.

    The hope, naturally, is that Cortes will learn something from this whole experience, which was kind of the point of sending him to Venezuela in the first place. That he's walked 21 guys in 19.1 innings may even end up being good for his development. That's impossible to say. But this does serve as a handy reminder that Cortes isn't a finished product. He made all of 22 relief appearances last season. He's a work in progress, and while he could end up closing soon, he won't be closing in April. Give him - and all the rest of the young players - time. Expecting immediate success is unfair.
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