Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?

Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?
February 23, 2011, 5:45 pm
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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
11:35 a.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

With the news that the Cardinals may have lost star pitcher Adam Wainwright for the season comes a thought that maybe this years Cubs could be starting to experience some of the breaks going their way.

Lets examine some of the evidence. In December, amid a very sad time in the Cubs' world, at the funeral of legendary Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo came word that Kerry Wood was interested in returning to the team. During a team sponsored reception at Harry Carays restaurant Wood reconnected with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Later that evening at an event for the Ryan Dempster Family Foundation, Wood let Hendry know that money would not stand in the way of his signing to pitch for the team he had starred for during most of his career.

Hendry set up a meeting for Wood with team chairman Tom Ricketts three days later and by the end of that next week Wood was back in Cubbie blue. He had spurned much larger offers to play for the one team that was in his heart. He signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million, an unheard of gesture in todays times and appears destined to finish his career as a Chicago Cub.

READ: Reasons for optimism from Cubs camp

The Cubs' chief rivals are the St. Louis Cardinals who are dealing with the fallout of losing their best starter it appears for the entire 2011 season. However, the much larger story is what will happen with Albert Pujols who becomes a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.

While I fully expect the Cardinals to re-sign Pujols there is no denying the fact that the whole Pujols sideshow will most definitely weigh on the Cardinals as a team and especially on their rabid fan base. That is another break that is going the Cubs way. Add in the fact that the Cubs were able to add Carlos Pena, Wood and Matt Garza for the total cost of 17 million and you see another example of things working in the Cubs favor.

At the end of this season the Cubs will be clearing significant salary off of the books as Aramis Ramirez (14 million), Carlos Silva (12.5 million), Kosuke Fukudome (14.5 million) John Grabow (5.5 million), and Jeff Samardizija (3.5 million) all will be at the end of their contracts. Add in the fact that Pena is a free agent and after factoring in deferred money the Cubs should have in excess of 40 million coming off of their payroll.

It takes a great team to win a World Series and for far too long the Cubs havent been a great team. However, it also takes a ton of breaks for a team to make a run at a championship and early in 2011 several of them seem to be trending the Cubs way. The big question is will it continue?

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.