Wood formally files for free agency

Wood formally files for free agency

As expected, right-hander Kerry Wood formally filed for free agency on Monday.

The question is, will Wood return to Chicago in 2008 or sign elsewhere?

The Cubs have indicated that they would like to keep Wood, who went 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 22 relief appearances in 2007 after getting a late start while recovering from shoulder surgery.

A starter for all but 11 of his 189 career games entering the 2007 season, Wood made a successful adjustment to pitching out of the bullpen and contributed to the Cubs' rise to the top of the National League Central.

Wood, who turns 31 next June, can exclusively negotiate with the Cubs until Nov. 12. If no deal is reached by then, he would also be free to talk to the other teams in the league.

On Nov. 12 of last year, the Cubs signed Wood to a one-year, $1.75 million contract following a 2006 season in which he had appeared in just four games.

Wood was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1998, but he missed all of 1999 following elbow surgery and has battled shoulder problems since 2004. He did pitch in relief in 2005, but he needed arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder in August that year.

Wood, who served in a setup capacity this year, represents a key piece of the Cubs' 2008 roster puzzle. If he returns, he might be given a shot at closing, which would enable the Cubs to slide Ryan Dempster into the rotation. Or Wood could be re-signed with an eye toward keeping him in a setup role.

All of these are among the decisions facing the Cubs and general manager Jim Hendry this winter. And now that Wood has officially filed, the clock is ticking on that decision.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.