GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The trade speculation expected to hound Kerry Wood all season has already heated up, and we're not even a week into the Indians' exhibition schedule. The news that All-Star Twins closer Joe Nathan is facing potential season-ending surgery to repair a tear in his elbow ligament could have potential implications on the Indians, and not just because they compete with the Twins in the American League Central. Wood and his $11.5 million contract for this season don't exactly mesh with the Tribe's trim payroll and young, developing roster. Furthermore, the Indians would clearly rather not see Wood's 2011 option, worth $11 million, vest on their watch. It vests if Wood finishes 55 games this season.
So, are the Twins, who are opening up a new ballpark in 2010 and firmly expecting to contend for the Central crown, a perfect potential trading partner for the Tribe? Only if they have the financial wherewithal to absorb all or most of Wood's contract, and that seems doubtful. But the early Twins speculation that became a topic of conversation Tuesday could set the tone for a few months' worth of Wood watching. The 32-year-old Wood is not oblivious to his place in the rumor mill, but he's not paying much attention to it, either. "I've never dealt with [trade speculation] before, and I don't want that to change," Wood said. "I don't want to deal with it. I'll go out and get ready to go every day. And every time I get a chance to save a game, I'll go out and do my job." Doing that job proved difficult for Wood last season. That was partially his own fault and partially the fault of his supporting cast. Signed to be the dominant back-end arm the Indians were lacking, Wood was given just 26 save opportunities. That goes a long way toward pointing out how the wheels fell off for the Indians last season. Wood battled his own issues in trying to get his slider working for him. But the lack of consistency in his workload obviously didn't help matters. For the season, he was 3-3 with a 4.25 ERA, 20 saves, 63 strikeouts and 28 walks in 55 innings over 58 appearances.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.