Cubs can’t sign free agents without Wrigley upgrades, says guy who signed as free agent with Cubs last year

Ex-Chicago Cubs reliever Kerry Wood has declared that his former team will never be able to attract free agents without a half-billion-dollar renovation plan, according to DNAinfo. “I don’t think you’re gonna get free agent players coming over to spend time here when facilities are what they are compared to everyone else’s in both leagues,” said Wood, who signed as a free agent with the Cubs in January of last year.

Wood’s return to Chicago was cut short when he retired last May, in the midst of a Cubs rebuilding year that saw the departure of star pitcher Ryan Dempster, who’d signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 2004, then resigned with them in 2008; and despite the presence of outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million free agent deal in 2006 to make his home at Wrigley.

Soriano himself recently expressed the importance of free agent signings to the success of the Cubs, telling Chicago Now, “What I see now is that the teams that have the big names, they don’t win. … If you play good at the right time, with the young guys, you can do something.”

13 comments on “Cubs can’t sign free agents without Wrigley upgrades, says guy who signed as free agent with Cubs last year

  1. Yep, gotta have big name, big dollar free agents like the Ange… no wait, the Angels are third in the division and only 1.5 games up on the pitiful Astros at the bottom of the AL West.

    It’s that other L.A. team with all the free agents. Yeah, look at the Dodge… Wait. They are 4th in the NL West.

    Okay, but the Yankees are totally killing it. I mean, it’s the Yankees, they can buy anyone. Oh… third place. And behind a Boston team that shipped out much of its overpaid detritus at the deadline last season.

    So yeah, pay lots of money to free agents. That’s really the only way to compete in MLB.

  2. He said he was retiring, but realized he was tricked when signing with the cubs as a free agent. Ricketts showed him some renderings and a pamphlet and said “we’ll be announcing this in 3 to 6 weeks… ok, make that 4 to 6 weeks. But keep it quiet or all the other teams will be on to our new plan to win games.”

  3. You noticed Wood said “..don’t think you’ll get free agents cominng over to spend time here…”.

    He didn’t say “Make an effort” or “Do their damndest to make the Cubs winners”. Or even “Try”. Free agents come to Chicago to spend time. That sounds about right.

    At least Soriano was honest enough to admit that his signing is one of the things preventing the Cubs from winning… at least, that’s the way I read it…

  4. I’m no fan of the Cubs, Ricketts or the idea of letting a giant video board be put up over the Waveland Ave. bleachers, but Kerry Wood has a point here. Numerous Brewers players have commented on how poor the facilities are there. It’s a turnoff for any player who has a choice in where he will play. It was part of the reason my lady’s cousin ditched USC football to go to Oregon a couple of years ago.

  5. Kerry Wood is also a Cubs Convention mainstay, so that’s why his rhetoric sounds so much like corporate speak.

  6. Ben: Yes, veteran players who are being sought by multiple teams and have a choice mightn’t choose Wrigley because there are no batting cages or the locker room is shitty, but the point is you don’t need those players to win. You sign cheap prospects and draft picks and build through your farm system. Look at the Giants. who have won 2 of the last 3 World Series. Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner all came through the organization. Vogelsong had been in the organization before becoming a reclamation project from Japan (the way he is pitching this season they might want to send him back, but that’s another discussion). The worst of their five starters is the free agent they threw a pile of money at (Zito).

    Now, they have resigned some of their guys to large contracts to keep them from leaving. And that might be an obstacle a shitty Wrigley poses should the Cubs ever be good enough to have that problem in the near future. But buying the guys who have a choice is exatly what the Angels, Yankees and Dodgers have all done (okay, the Dodgers traded for a lot of them, but still…) and it doesn’t seem to be working right now for them.

  7. Does no-one remember the tail end of the Jim Hendry years as GM in Chicago?

    The Cubs spent wildly to try and make this franchise more competitive (it didn’t work. it never works on the north side)… no shortage of free agents were more than willing to turn up and collect a paycheck then. Some of them are still here.

    What “mobile” players want is a chance to win. You can get the money more or less anywhere. Sure, maybe if everything else is equal, you take the club with the nicer weather, or a city where golf courses stay open all winter (though at today’s payrates, where players live need not be related to where they work), or who have a shiny new batting cage. But otherwise?

    If the money is roughly equal, it’s about winning and fan support. After that? How many right angle turns you have to make to get from the new Cubs clubhouse (it ain’t where the old one was…) to the dugout doesn’t really matter that much.

  8. I don’t think there’s anything preventing the Cubs from doing the things that would make Wrigley more attractive to free agents. The clubhouses, batting cages, etc are all underground stuff. Can’t imagine the landmark status and preservation rules would have any impact. The Dodgers took care of that this past off-season and you wouldn’t know it had been done if we hadn’t seen pictures of the construction project.

  9. Keep in mind that most MLB’ers would be pumping gas if it weren’t for their physical abilities, few have metriculated through any kind of economis program.
    Who cares what a washed-up near-do-well pitcher thinks? Especially when he’s just parroting the company line.

  10. Michael,

    Every player you mentioned has either reached his FA years or given up FA years. You’re making my point.

  11. Ben: Pretty sure your point was that facilities determine where an MLB FA (and some friend of a friend) chooses to go play sports, and if the Cubs’ put up video boards they could afford better FA. Unless I’m reading it wrong. If you can make the case that Cain and Lincecum signed their deals mostly because of the facilities (and not because, oh, the Giants were winning), then by all means…

  12. Michael: The Cubs would be the worst possible example of a club being “damaged” by their market or facilities.

    The money in Chicago has been outlandishly good for years, and they’ve handed it out to pretty much anyone with a pulse. The fan support is fantastic (completely out of step with the effort and achievements of the team…) and the north side is, frankly, a pretty good place to play. Sure, the stadium itself is old and the concourses cramped etc. But those are “fixable” items… and in many ways are issues the team has exacerbated by trying to add seats more or less every year.

    If the Cubs are concerned with attracting free agents, their first and best step would be to stop throwing money at players like Soriano, Fukudome etc. It doesn’t matter how big your bucket is if it is full of holes…

  13. John, I wasn’t saying facilities mattered. Personally I’m agnostic on that. Basically the thing that matters most is money (my guess, that is). And yes, the Cubs have spent terribly. Did I say somewhere the Cubs were a good example of anything except not being very good (although they were 6 outs away from the World Series, what, 8 years ago)?

    I was saying they (like pretty much everyone else) are generally better served developing their own talent because it’s cheaper than paying whatever money they paid for the likes of Soriano in FA. If I wasn’t clear on that, then my bad.