Some of the more senior members of the Chicago Cubs were on hand Wednesday to launch the team's annual caravan and convention.
You know, guys like Randy Wells ... and ... Darwin Barney ... and ... James Russell ... and ... Casey Coleman.
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"It's kind of weird, when you think about it," said Wells, who has all of three-plus years with the Cubs. "I want to be a part of winning here. I think it would be one of the most special things in sports."
Sure, a few of the veteran holdovers will be on hand this weekend at the Cubs convention, but new Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have turned things over quickly since they got here last fall.
Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Sean Marshall, Koyie Hill, Tyler Colvin and Carlos Pena all are gone, and the Cubs are trying to work out a deal for veteran pitcher and fan favorite Kerry Wood. It appears the two sides may be drawing closer on a one-year deal for Wood, who came "home" last winter and pitched the 2011 season for $1.5 million.
On that front, Epstein sounded hopeful.
"We said all along we want to get this done," Epstein said. "We have a world of respect for Kerry, and this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes during the winter things get a little more complicated. We have a lot of things going for us. Namely, we want Kerry to be here. We surely want him to be here. And he sincerely wants to be a Cub. Like I've said, if we can't figure this one out, something is wrong. I'll stand by that."
Beyond that, it's a whole new look and feel for the Cubs, and that's a good thing after a 71-91 season and few young players ready to contribute every day.
"We're trying to get younger, trying to get a little more athletic, trying to build for 2012 and also for the future," Epstein said. "I'm excited."
Trading Zambrano to the Marlins for pitcher Chris Volstad was a matter of getting rid of a headache. But, like trading Marshall to the Reds for young pitcher Travis Wood it also turned short-term assets into long-term assets.
Even speaking in those terms represents a big step from when Jim Hendry was GM. But Epstein caught himself using the abstract.
"Baseball organizations are made up of human beings," he said. "They're not just robots who put up numbers. They're not commodities. I know I refer to a player as an asset. That's business speak. That's not what I believe. They're human beings. You can get a lot better just by getting to know guys and putting them in a position to succeed and allowing them to get to know you a little bit and building, I think, a real spirit of the organization of unity and teamwork."
Shortstop Starlin Castro is expected to attend the Cubs convention. Castro's name was in the news because of a sexual-assault accusation leveled at him. He has not been charged with any crime.
"I don't think this is the right time to talk about that," Theo Epstein said Wednesday.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum did not sound worried about the situation becoming a distraction for his player.
"I don't really know the details of all of it, but I don't think it's going to affect him," Sveum said. "It's what it is. I think it's being taken care of in the (proper) avenues."
Not 'shopping' Garza?
Theo Epstein reiterated the Cubs are not shopping starting pitcher Matt Garza, their "ace" as of now, but he didn't rule anything out.
Garza is another one of those "assets" who could bring a lot in return. However, he has two years to go before free agency, unlike Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall.
"I've kept his representatives updated," Epstein said. "I can truly say more has happened in the media with this than has happened in reality. There's no attempt to shop him.
"I think very highly of Matt Garza. I think he's a top-of-the-rotation-type guy. I'm looking forward to him being on the mound for us this season. We're just being transparent about the fact that, 'Hey, we're in this for the long haul.' Sometimes it makes sense just to weigh our options and see if you can put yourself in a better position for the long haul."