Who says you can’t go home?

Kerry Wood, the sometime Cub who remains beloved of the team’s fanbase, will be a free agent this winter.

After signing a two-year contract in December 2008 with the Cleveland Indians, Wood struggled to stay healthy and effective. He posted a 4.80 ERA in 81 games with Cleveland before a July trade to the New York Yankees.

Since reaching the Bronx, however, Wood’s career has come back from the brink. He has a stunning (if inevitably lucky) 0.39 ERA in 21 appearances as a Yankee and has struck out 26 in 23 innings. He will not get a multi-year deal this offseason but could command $5 million or more on the open market.

A number of teams could take an interest at Wood at that price range, but one dark horse candidate would be by far the most interesting destination for Wood: the Chicago Cubs.

Wood loved Chicago during his original 10-year tenure, making it his permanent home and remaining there with his family even after signing with Cleveland. The city embraced him, and many Cubs fans still consider Wood the greatest Cub of his generation.

If that old mutual admiration between the Cubs and their former prodigy still exists, it could be the perfect time for a reunion. Wood is just 33 years old, despite his extreme veteran status, and still leads all active players in strikeouts per nine innings.

His command—which was at its best during Wood’s last season in Chicago—has abandoned him since his move to the junior circuit, but a return to the Cubs could help cure that malady.

On the Cubs’ side, Wood would be a good fit on a 2011 team that needs at least one more effective reliever. On a one-year deal, the team need not feel overly committed to Wood, especially if prospects like Jay Jackson and Tyrelle Harris prove big-league ready. If not, though, Wood would be a good seventh- and even eighth-inning pitcher, allowing the team to stretch out Andrew Cashner or Jeff Samardzija and start them if need be.

The experiment may or may not work and seems unlikely even to be attempted. If it were to be successful, though, it could go a long way toward shoring up the Cubs’ pitching staff in 2011—and it would make for a satisfying homecoming for Wood.

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