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Levine: Travis Wood Faces Uncertain Future With Cubs

By Bruce Levine--

MESA, Ariz. (CBS) -- The body of work has certainly improved for Cubs left-hander Travis Wood. Finding a niche in the team's bullpen last season helped the likable Wood establish himself in a new role.

What will Wood's role be in 2016? And could he be traded to a new team? All bets are off right now.

The Cubs are primed to make a push deep into the playoffs in 2016, and the front office added depth to the bullpen and rotation in the offseason. Those additions could make Wood expendable. That could especially be true because of a hefty $6.1 million salary in his last season before free agent status kicks in this November. There are few middle relievers making in the range of $6 million a year.

Wood was showcased in Thursday's game as the teams first spring starter. He has proved to be valuable pitcher as a swing man between the bullpen and rotation. He had a 3.84 ERA in 54 appearances in 2015.

Other clubs have contacted the Cubs about the 29-year-old Wood. In a perfect world, he would be a fourth starter for another team. For their part, the Cubs aren't likely to have a rotation spot open.

"We have tremendous respect for what (Wood) does," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I am certain part of him wants to be a starter. He might not do it here. We respect his abilities and we know he likes it here."

The Cubs traded for lefty reliever Rex Brothers in the offseason. Brothers has a big arm and could slide into the role Wood had last season.

"We have an unusual group," Maddon said of his bullpen guys. "They can fill multiple roles and multiple innings. It's important to have these choices because of their similar abilities."

Under the direction of Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, bullpen arms like Wood, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren and Clayton Richard will be stretched out as starters throughout spring training.

"We will take that to the start of the season, so we don't have to extend (Jake) Arrieta, (Jon) Lester and (John) Lackey early in the year," Maddon said.

Wood has been a durable pitcher for the Cubs, and he was close to signing a three-year, $30-million contract during the spring of 2014. He had posted a nifty 3.11 ERA during the 2013 season in 32 starts.

But Wood had a down season in 2014, as he watched his ERA go up to 5.03 before rebounding in 2015, when he was 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA as a starter and 3-2 with a fine 2.95 ERA in 45 bullpen appearances.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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