All indications are the the Indians are on the verge of announcing a two- or three-year deal with Kerry Wood, who no doubt would be anointed the closer immediately. Paul Hoynes reported this morning that the Indians met twice with Wood's agent on the first day of Winter Meetings, while both the AP's Tom Withers and MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince have both reported in the last hour that the deal is almost done.
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus reports that the Indians have already signed off on Wood's medical report — a critical milestone for a cautious organization signing a pitcher with a significant injury history. (Hat-tip: xrickx.) Sweetening the deal, the Tigers were reportedly interested in Wood, too.
Most relievers, even very good ones and closers, are failed starters — that is, they didn't have good enough stuff or enough effective pitches to succeed as a starting pitcher. Not so with Wood, a truly dominating pitcher who is tied with Roger Clemens for the one-game nine-inning strikeout record, with 20.
Wood switched the bullpen after failing for years to stay healthy while pitching out of the rotation. Last season, he had a rocky start on Opening Day but went on to post a 2.89 ERA over the rest of the season, while stranding 10 of 12 inherited runners. He collected 34 saves in 38 opportunities, and even more important, he struck out a staggering 84 batters in just 66 innings, while walking only 18.
Wood has the second-highest career strikeout rate of all time, behind only Randy Johnson. No, seriously, he does. That mark is mostly based on his 10.25 K/9 as a starter, but over 100-odd innings as a reliever over the past four seasons, it's an even better 10.96 K/9, and last season it was 11.40 K/9.
Wood stands to become the Indians' most significant free agent signing since Chuck Finley in 2000. Granted, that isn't saying a hell of a lot, but still.