Thanks to the Suntimes-
Pitcher Kerry Wood could return to the Cubs' bullpen in 2008 -- although it might take getting a deal done in the next nine days.
Cliff Floyd is resigned to the likelihood that his first season with his hometown team will be his last.
Postseason veteran Curt Schilling could be in the Cubs' sights, and Alex Rodriguez might be drifting out of sight of Chicago.
This is where the Cubs appeared to stand as they wrapped up organizational meetings in
Arizona on Friday in preparation for the annual general managers meetings early next week in Orlando, Fla.
Refusing to address specifics, Cubs GM Jim Hendry called the meetings ''very, very productive'' and said he plans to start getting aggressive with the start of the GM meetings now that he's armed with a winter plan and with a ''comfortable'' feeling that the Cubs' $100 million payroll from 2007 will increase.
Based on conversations with several people associated with the team:
• • Wood is probably the only one of the Cubs' free agents they will pursue, and they figure to take advantage of the exclusive negotiating period with Wood that expires Nov. 12.
Despite speculation that Wood might seek an opportunity to become a starter again, he seems to agree with the Cubs that his best hope for health and success in the near future is as a reliever. He made a successful conversion the final two months of 2007 after another stretch of shoulder rehabilitation.
• • Depending on how outrageous the bidding gets in a pitching-short market, the Cubs could go after Schilling, the 40-year-old Red Sox free agent who listed the Cubs among 13 teams he would consider.
• • Content with third baseman Aramis Ramirez -- and not in the mood for setting more offseason spending records -- the Cubs don't expect to be a player in the A-Rod sweepstakes.
• • And center field could be as key a position for the Cubs this winter as it is for the other team in town, depending on how prospect Felix Pie's winter progresses. Hitting coach Gerald Perry is in the Dominican Republic working with Pie, and he and manager Lou Piniella have devised a winter baseball plan for Pie, after which the organization will re-evaluate him.
Meanwhile, the Cubs on Friday picked up pinch-hit specialist Daryle Ward's $1.2 million contract option for 2008, after declining options for Floyd and pitcher Steve Trachsel, making them free agents.
The Cubs' fourth free agent is catcher Jason Kendall.
Floyd, 34, who talked in September about retiring, said he plans to keep playing and has told his agent to reach out to every major-league team.
Floyd and Hendry, who have had a strong relationship during Floyd's career, had planned to talk about terms of a possible return next season. But Floyd said Friday he expects the conversation to be more of an ''official goodbye.''
He was one of four Cubs to file for free agency this past week, along with Wood, Trachsel and Kendall. The Cubs declined Trachsel's $4.75 million option. Outfielder Craig Monroe also is expected to file.
''If I don't come back there, that was a good experience,'' Floyd said.