CHICAGO -- It's business as usual for the Chicago Cubs despite the sudden departure of team president John McDonough, who left Tuesday to take a similar position with the NHL Chicago Blackhawks.
Crane Kenney, the Tribune Co. executive to whom McDonough reported, said the team will not name an interim president because of the ownership transition. The Tribune Co. has been sold to real estate investor Sam Zell, but that deal has not been formally completed, and the Cubs' ownership status is uncertain.
"The process is one that we control a part of, and [Major League Baseball] controls a part of, and the various bidders who have an interest ... control some of the timing," Kenney said Tuesday. "My expectation is that there will be some clarification of team ownership by the middle of next year. It's gone slower than we thought it would, but we're also comfortable with the pace."
Kenney, who has been the Tribune Co. liaison with the team the past five years, said the team payroll will increase from the 2007 total of $110 million, but would only say the hike will be "enough."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said McDonough's exit does not affect his work schedule this offseason.
"It's business as usual for our baseball department," Hendry said. "From our point of view, it's not going to be any different. Crane and I have been working together now for quite some time. I think our first input together was when we brought Greg Maddux back to the Cubs [in 2004].
"Everything's good from our end," Hendry said. "We wish John the best. He's enabled our baseball operations to grow."
McDonough took over as team president in October 2006 when Andy MacPhail resigned after a 96-loss season, and he oversaw the hiring of Lou Piniella as manager plus the $300 million spending spree last offseason that included signing Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Mark DeRosa. The Cubs won the National League Central in 2007.
Kenney said he talked to Piniella on Tuesday, and the Cubs manager was already discussing potential lineups for 2008.
"Like last offseason, Jim and Lou and Randy [Bush, assistant general manager] have put together a good plan," Kenney said. "We're going to get better quick, just like we did last year."
|"We don't have a lot of moves, but we feel the moves we need to make are just as important as the moves we made last year."|
|-- GM Jim Hendry, on the team's offseason plans|
"I feel very comfortable where I'm at and with my superiors," Hendry said Tuesday. "There's not another job in the world I would take besides general manager of the Chicago Cubs. I can't control who's going to own the ballclub, nor would I waste one second worrying about that."
McDonough told Kenney one of the reasons he wanted the Blackhawks job was because of the challenge to rebuild the franchise. McDonough has been with the Cubs for 24 seasons, and he is credited with several successful marketing ventures, including the Cubs Convention, held annually since 1986.
Cubs front-office staff learned of McDonough's departure at a morning meeting Tuesday.
"John was choked up to a good degree," Kenney said. "He's got so many friends in the game, and in Chicago. For most people, it was the first they heard of it and they were surprised. People were smiling and congratulating him at the end. I think people understood as well, as he expressed his excitement about his new position and his feeling that he'd accomplished to a great degree what he wanted to accomplish here.
"It was a celebration of John's career at the end," Kenney said of the session.
What's next? The Cubs have some player-personnel issues to resolve. Hendry said he has had several discussions with Pat Rooney, who is Kerry Wood's agent, about keeping the right-hander in Chicago.
"Wood is getting a lot of action around the industry," Hendry said of the free-agent pitcher, who switched to a setup reliever last season and may have a future as a closer. "I believe before we get to the Winter Meetings, that will be brought to a conclusion. We'd certainly like him to be brought back."
Baseball's annual Winter Meetings begin Dec. 3 in Nashville.
Hendry also is looking for a quality left-handed hitting outfielder, and he would like to add some left-handed hitting for the bench in a versatile utility player. Plus, he will consider additions to the pitching staff to keep it strong.
"We don't have a lot of moves, but we feel the moves we need to make are just as important as the moves we made last year," Hendry said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.