Besides the on-going bidding for the Cubs, the major news this week is that the NL Central won’t have Bob Howry to kick around anymore.  The Sun-Time’s AP subscription pays off with this report that Home Run Bob is headed to SF to fill McCovey Cove with Dodger runs.  It’s good news for aging Bums like Jeff Kent with incentive-laden deals.  Looking back, I’ve been a little cruel to Howry.  Then again, he’ll make $2.75 mil, with his own incentives for good numbers up to another $500K.   So, add that all up, factor in that it’s Howry, and that’s $2.75 million he’s taking home.

My favorite story this week comes from The Tribune‘s Fred Mitchell, an actual reporter.  Apparently, Kerry Wood’s free agency sparked the interest of the man most often accused of burning out Wood’s arm, Dusty Baker.  Baker says he plans to call Wood ASAP, altho he’s talking it up in the press before he does, or even call Reds GM Walt Jocketty.  Maybe its safest, as I’m sure he’ll be able to hear Wood screaming “no!” from any point in the Midwest.  The speculation Mitchell cites as to why Piniella allowed Wood to go “ Piniella’s exasperation over Wood’s month-long blister benching “ might be a factor.  But hitting lead off batters, running hot and cold, and giving up some key runs in big games says a lot more.  So does Marmol coming up behind him, and the availability of Kevin Gregg mean Piniella is the only man in Wrigley who thinks Wood is expendable to the city of Chicago.

Kerry Wood answered the call from the bullpen last season for the Cubs, reinventing himself as a capable closer with 34 saves.Will he pick up the phone when Dusty Baker from division foe Cincinnati calls him?

The Cubs decided to pass on offering Wood a multiyear deal to retain his services, so Baker says he plans to give Wood a call to check on his possible interest in signing with Cincinnati.

“We have a closer already in [ Francisco] Cordero, who we have under contract for a few more years,” Baker said Monday. “But somebody can use Kerry Wood. I am going to call him. I like Kerry Wood as a person, not just as a ballplayer, but as a person. I will give him a call and see what’s up.”

Baker managed the Cubs when the oft-injured Wood provided glimpses of his potential as a hard-throwing starter before trying to reduce the strain on his arm and shoulder by pitching out of the bullpen as a setup man before becoming a closer.

Baker plans to consult with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty as the annual winter meetings commence next week in Las Vegas.

“We will probably address that while we are down there. It depends on a lot of stuff,” Baker said. “I have to talk to Kerry first. He did a pretty good job for the Cubs.”

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who has been very close to Wood over the years, said it was in the best interests of Wood and his family to pursue a long-term contract elsewhere. Wood later indicated he would have discussed a one-year deal to remain in Chicago. There has been speculation that Cubs manager Lou Piniella became exasperated with Wood last season when he missed about a month with a blister on his right hand.