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Phils Clinch Ignites Cubs Stove

Hot Stove Season is officially here. The Marlins traded Mike Jacobs to Kansas City for Leo Nunez. And the free agent filings have begun.

Ryan Dempster, Bob Howry, Chad Fox and Jim Edmonds all filed on the first day they could. Only one of those guys should get a call from Hendry's office.

The Cubs can get (or have) better, cheaper and healthier replacements for Howry and Fox.

Edmonds, even if he doesn't retire, shouldn't get a spot on the 2009 Cubs. Unless Felix Pie is traded, he'll probably be in a platoon with Reed Johnson. Pie is out of options, and Johnson is arbitration eligible after signing a one-year deal after being cut loose by the Blue Jays. Of course, neither Johnson or Edmonds were on the Cubs' radar screen last year, so who knows what could happen.

Even with some regression, Dempster is likely to be a solid starter in 2009. No, I didn't think he could cut it, but he did, and then some.

MLB.com notes a few guys have yet to declare

Closer Kerry Wood, first baseman Daryle Ward, catcher Henry Blanco and right-hander Jon Lieber are the team's other potential free agents.


The Cubs need a veteran to complement Geovany Soto, and there's no reason not to retain Henry Blanco's services.

Daryle Ward was the classic case of a 2-yr. deal for a back-up player not working out. Despite Ward's immense patience at the plate, his value, even at a steep discount, would be minimal, if not negative.

Lieber might be done. He still has good control, but his health is continuing to decline. The frustration he had with his own condition was evident when he left town and called it a year, and later was placed on the 60-day DL.

Kerry Wood is a very interesting case. The other side of the Dempster coin was a big part of the Cubs' success. While my own bias is that closers are over-rated, their role has become ingrained in modern baseball.

For better or for worse, most clubhouses and managers expect, and produce, rigid roles in the bullpen - if at all possible. With that in mind, Wood should be retained. Unless he prices himself out of a realistic deal.

Dempster, Wood and Blanco should stay, if reasonable terms can be reached - none of these guys are worth over-extending, but each would be an important piece of a 3rd straight Central title.

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