Hoyer: Cubs have offered Wood a 'substantial raise'

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Hoyer: Cubs have offered Wood a 'substantial raise'

Perhaps this all ends Friday night, with everyone holding up a No. 34 jersey and flashbulbs popping inside the Hilton Chicago.

But its the middle of January and Kerry Wood is still a free agent and being linked to several contending teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies. A deadline of sorts appears to be this weekends Cubs Convention.

Weve been really open with the media on this negotiation, general manager Jed Hoyer said during Tuesdays teleconference announcing the Paul Maholm signing. It is probably a little different than most. I dont want to abuse that and be too open about that. But we continue to want Kerry back in Chicago. Weve offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done.

Thirteen months ago, Wood attended Ron Santos funeral and felt a pull back toward the Cubs. Wood took a below-market deal -- one year at 1.5 million -- that was negotiated by Jim Hendry, the general manager at the time.

There was also an understanding with chairman Tom Ricketts that Wood would have a role within the organization after his playing career was over. Near the end of last season, Wood said he would probably retire if he couldnt pitch for the Cubs in 2012. The reliever laughed when it was suggested he just gave away all his leverage.

Wood and his family live in Chicago during the offseason. His wife, Sarah, grew up in the suburbs and theyve decided to make this their home. Theyve also launched a charitable foundation that will hold a fundraiser on Friday night at Harry Carays Tavern on Navy Pier.

Several Cubs players are scheduled to attend the event, along with Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. A new administration might have a different idea of what Wood is worth.

We come in with somewhat of a fresh set of eyes, Hoyer said. That doesnt diminish what people have done long before were here. We both understand the history of the organization and we understand which players mean a lot to the fans. Kerry is one of them, so that is something were aware of. Fresh eyes are one thing, but that doesnt mean you sort of ignore the rich past that the Cubs have.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."