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Year after turning down 4-year deal from Cubs, Wood turns page

MESA, Ariz. – On the scale of potential regret it doesn’t quite rise to the levels of George Custer or Pete Carroll. But Travis Wood knows what he left on the table a year ago.

And as he opens spring training in a Cubs camp many didn’t expect him to even be around for, he can only imagine where he might wind up by Opening Night. Or how different things might have been if he’d taken that four-year deal the Cubs wanted to give him before last season.

“You can always look back on things like that and kick yourself or say you should have,” the left-hander said Sunday. “Or if you sign one, you might say, `I shouldn’t have done that after the year I had.’ There’s pros and cons to both. But I don’t look back on it.

“It was part of the game. It happened. You move on.”

Coming off a 2013 All-Star year, the Cubs talked to Wood about a deal that would have been worth about $8 million a year, according to sources.

He took his chances and turned it down. Then he went from the league leaders in ERA (3.11) and quality starts (24) in 2013 to the worst season of his young career — 5.03 and 13, with 26 fewer innings, a higher walk rate and an 8-13 record.

“It was a humbling experience,” Wood said.

Now he’s surrounded, literally, by reminders of how much his status on this team has changed in a year – with new ace Jon Lester’s locker on one side of his and former NL saves leader Jason Motte’s on the other.

If he’s surprised that he’s even still a Cub this spring, he’s not the only one. But he’s keeping that to himself.

The Cubs have had trade talks involving him with multiple teams over the winter. And his name has been a regular feature of hot stove rumors ever since the signings of Lester and Jason Hammel – including loose speculation the Cubs might non-tender him (which was never considered).

“I mean, if I get traded, I get traded,” Wood said. “It’s part of the business. If they feel like they need to bring somebody else in, if it helps the team it helps the team. I don’t really look to much into it.”

But what if he’d taken that multi-year deal instead of taking a one-year $3.9-million deal and taking his chances? Could that have changed his Cubs job security?

“I don’t think so,” said Wood. “It’s not like that’s an unmovable contract or anything.”

In his second winter of arbitration eligibility, Wood agreed to a one-year, $5.685-million deal this time around.

Nobody with the team has told Wood where he stands or what the likelihood of a trade this spring is, he said.

For now he’s looking for a restart after a frustrating 2014 – wherever it might be – and reproving his value to a rotation.

“Last year was a big learning year. You learn a lot more when you fail than when you succeed because you see your flaws better,” Wood said. “There’s always something to work on and get better at.”

Wherever he winds up, this figures to be an especially important year for Wood’s career as he approaches his final winter of arbitration eligibility. And if it turns out to be a big year on the field for him, that could make him an especially important guy for the Cubs if it’s in this rotation.

“It’s going to be tough for the back end, no question,” manager Joe Maddon said of the battle Wood would face for what figures to be one spot in the rotation (behind Lester, Jake Arrieta, Hammel and Kyle Hendricks).

“I don’t have a strong sense of what happened last year,” Maddon said of Wood. “He’s definitely a pro. We pretty much just talked about letting that [stay] in the past and just come into 2015 and start over.”