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For months it’s been assumed that, together with Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster is the only lock to be a member of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 rotation. Dempster has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter for half a decade (though the first couple months of the season were a disappointment), loves the city of Chicago, and has a player option worth a healthy $14 million next year. Of course he’ll be in the rotation next year.

Right?

Well, although it remains likely, Dempster isn’t quite ready to guarantee it.

“I enjoy being a Chicago Cub and playing here, that’s for sure,’’ Dempster said recently when asked about his future with the team. “I’ll worry about that at the end of the season.

“I think that’s something that I’ll have to look at at the end of the year, and hopefully something that they’re interested in happening here,” Dempster said.

Given that Dempster’s immediate future with the Cubs is entirely within his control, his words fall far short of convincing anyone that he’s determined to return.

A tipster tells me that Dempster is not as much of a lock to return as we’ve been led to believe. Instead, although likely to return, Dempster may wait and see the direction the team looks like it’s going to take under the next GM before deciding whether to stay with the Cubs. In other words, if the Cubs go into a full-on rebuild mode, Dempster may want to take a chance to win elsewhere. To me, this squares with Dempster’s noncommittal quote.

Separately, there is the money issue. It’s fair to wonder a bit about Dempster wanting to explore his options in free agency, or at least wring a couple more years out of the Cubs, given his age (he turns 35 early next season), and the relative dearth of starting pitching on the free agent market this offseason. In that way, his situation is very similar to that of Aramis Ramirez (on whom the Cubs hold a team option, but Ramirez has a right to void the deal, effectively making the option a mutual one).

While Dempster would have a tough time getting a $14 million annual salary, he could easily top that total over a multi-year deal. It’s almost impossible to see him not getting at least $18 to 22 million over two years.

Of course, the Cubs won’t be in a position to make that kind of decision on Dempster until the new GM is in place. And maybe Dempster similarly wants to wait until that time to make his decision.

One thing is certain: if Dempster wants to return at a reasonable price, the next GM will have him back. Dempster is a fan favorite, and a stalwart in the clubhouse. He’s also been a pretty great pitcher for the Cubs over the course of his time with the team. But, most importantly, where are the Cubs going to find another starting pitcher?

  • ron

    I would take Dempster for 2 years and 18 mil over one year 14 mil. Is that even really possible?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t know. I just know that, on the open market, it’s inconceivable that he’d get less than that.

      • ron

        I would even go 3 years 24 mil that is front loaded, 14, 5 and 5. I think given the current financial situation that would be pretty palatable.

  • EQ

    I’m torn.. I mean, part of me thinks, yes!! get rid of all the big, under-performing contracts that we can.. the other part of me thinks there’s no better options for us next year than Demp and ARam at each position.. especially if it’s only 1 more year for each.. why not keep each for 1 more year then have a lot of salary relief before the 2013 FA class hits!

  • CubFan Paul

    Demp probably thinks/or his agent is telling him that he can get a Ted Lilly/Randy Wolfe type contract -3yrs/$30million, so he’s keeping his “options” open (tampering, his agent talking to other teams to see if they’ll offer enough for him to opt out)

    Brett, do you know anything about Jason Kubel defensively in the outfield? I can picture a bidding war for his services this offseason ..he won’t get Jason Werth money but the outfield market is thin & Kubel has “nice” numbers offensively

    • MichiganGoat

      I can see him getting 3/30, I could even see him getting 4/40

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Even if the Cubs unload Soriano (eating bajillions in the process), I have a hard time seeing them signing a costly free agent out there.

      • Toosh

        Agreed. If they sign any FA, it will be a starting pitcher or first baseman.

  • MichiganGoat

    With such a thin FA pitching class Dempster becomes a top 5 or even top 3 FA pitcher. I could see the Yankees and Red Sox interested since he is an upgrade over their 4/5 pitching and I’m sure Dempster wouldn’t mind a shot at a ring. I see all this as Dempster saying “I love you Cubs but I only have a few years and you won’t be contending for a couple of years I want to play for a winner and have a chance to finish my career with a ring”

    • CubFan Paul

      damn you goats and your logic!

      • MichiganGoat

        It’s all about the beard, bah

  • 1060Ivy

    A 34 year old pitcher, who turns 35 next year, sporting an ERA at 4.76 in the NL (WHIP 1.40, career ERA 4.40, WHIP 1.45) should be able to go to the Yankees or Red Sox this offseason and get a 3 year deal for over $24 MM. Sorry not buying it.

    Dempster has been great in the clubhouse, appears to be an all around great guy and gives the Cubs a couple of hundred innings a year without drama but his best years are behind him.

    If Demp wants to leave, he’ll leave but he knows that he has a pretty good deal for next year on the table.

    • Bails17

      He will be better next year than he was this year. His stuff is still good…he just didn’t locate like he needed to earlier in the year. He will be better. But..not worth 14mil…I would take him for 3yr/24mil in a heart beat. Way worth the risk there. And…what are the other options? At worst….he would be a real solid #4/5 guy but has put up #2 type numbers before and feasibly do so again. Sign him up for 3yr/24mil.

      • 1060Ivy

        As pitchers hit their mid-30’s their performances usually improve specially when moving from the NL to the AL East.

        • CubFan Paul

          really 1060?? who? it should be the reverse! AL East to the anywhere in the NL

          • willis

            Sarcasm detector obviously not tuned too high today.

    • MichiganGoat

      The Yanks would gladly pay 3/30 since they have very little depth beyond CC and with Rothchild I’m sure the Yanks will make a run for him. Dempster is consistent, not prone to injuries, a great clubhouse guy, a leader and mentor, why wouldn’t a team that needs pitching not want his services and 3/30 is cheap for the Yankees.

    • Jeff

      Hiroki Kuroda signed for 12 million/1 year last offseason, he was 36 and both Boston and NYY were trying to trade for him this year. Carl Pavano signed for over 8 million a year last year, Javier Vasquez for over 7, Jake Westbrook for over 8 a year, and Lilly signed for 3 years/30 million. Dempster is more proven and consistent than all of them. He would easily get Ted Lilly money at the minimum. All of his intangibles and his durability make him a pretty decent middle of the rotation guy for a WS contender. The only team he will be signing with for less than 10 million a year would be the Cubs.

      • 1060Ivy

        Let’s take a look at the success at these expensive, older pitchers are having this season.
        ERA WHIP W L Innings
        Kuroda 2.92 1.21 10 14 158
        Pavano 4.62 1.38 6 11 181
        Vasquez 4.63 1.35 7 11 154
        Westbrook4.75 1.49 10 7 155
        Lilly 4.43 1.18 8 13 156

        Other than Kuroda and maybe Lilly is there a pitcher on that list that you believe is worth over 8 MM for next season? Lilly gets a bump being a lefty and Kuroda has been a great story if the Dodgers offense would only produce for him but sorry there’s no one on that list I would want to see in Cub blue next year even at less than half the price.

        • Jeff

          I’m not talking about signing any of them, I’m saying there is a market for Dempster, and he’s going to get his money.

          • MichiganGoat

            Exactly, it may not be a wise investment but teams need pitching, the FA market is thin, and Demp has been consistent and is an excellent #4, a good #3, and possible #2 on a playoff caliber team. He will be offered more money than the Cubs should spend on him, so it’s all about where he wants to be next year.

  • Fishin Phil

    I would be sad to see him go, but I would wish him well. He would be a great complimentary piece of the rotation on a contending club. Unfortunately, I don’t see us being a contending club until maybe 2013. Not sure he would want to hang around that long.

  • Coale

    Let him walk, if you look at the numbers Wells is almost having as good as year as dempster. I cant remember the last time Dempster threw 6 scoreless innings this year, and hes suppose to be our number 1, hes a 3 at best for a average team

    • hardtop

      wells has a maybe half the outings so its not an apples to apples comparison. The team has obvioulsy played better in the second half, scoring runs, playing defense, etc… Randy missed the shit storm that was april, may, and june. demp started off terribly so to get his number back down to where they are was a bit of an achievement (sad but ture). ill give you that he’s definately a 3, and 3’s probably shouldnt be getting 14 mil (maybe on the phils). but without him, we’ll need a 1, 3, 4, and 5 pitcher. I’d rather fill 3 pitching positions than 4. And even though he’s probably not worth all that coin, all things considered, he wont be the most overpaid player on the books… its not like we’ll be paying him 12 to 16 million to play for someone else like we will be with Z and Soriano (probably).

    • Jeff

      July 15th, he threw 8 innings of 4 hit,shutout ball. He has exactly 3 outings that can’t be considered quality starts since the beginning of June. He is a 3 at best for a contending team, but the Cubs aren’t contending, and there are no better starters on the market this offseason. If he will re-sign for anything close to 3 years/30 million, it’s a no brain decision for the Cubs.

  • Waveland

    CubFan Paul I’m pretty sure 1060 was being sarcastic. Ryan Dempster worth 14.8 million??? I love the guy too, but there is no way. And there is no way he walks away from that kind of money either. We’ll have him for one more year and I expect he pitches better than he has this year, but he’s not a top 20 pitcher in the NL and he’s not pitching us to the playoffs.

  • willis

    Good either way. Next year won’t be a contending year and by 2013 (God willing) young arms will be ready. I think the Yankees would be interested. Same with the Sox if they need a back end arm. And that’s pretty much what he is now. A 4/5 for a decent team.

    • CubFan Paul

      this little tidbit from Bruce Levine’s chat today:

      Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
      Nothing wrong with Barney and LeMahieu at second and short with Fielder and Castro at first and third. Then give me a CJ Wilson and I’ll give you a competitive team.

      kinda what iv been saying for awhile (if Barney roids up to up his SLG%). the cubs can be competitive w/ the additions of Fielder & CjWilson and mid level pickups & kids playing elsewhere ..but hopefully Ramy stays for next year

      • hardtop

        I have to disagree with you and levine on this one (well i alwsy disagree with levine) Castro at 3rd and Fielder at 1st?
        “give me cj wilson and ill give you a team that looses a lot of games behind him due to horrific defense”
        castro would *maybe* be better at 3rd becasue he wouldnt be “ranging” as much, but fielder would more than make up for starlins improvement with his own brand of suckage. an infield made up of guys who are 3,2,and 1 year out of the minors, and a 5′-9″ fat man, known to be one of the worst defensive first baseman in the game? more balls in the dugout than outs at first is my prediction. and than there’s the fact that you’re counting on starlin to get on base and prince to knock him in… and thats all of you’re offense. I’ll pass on that scenario, personally.

        • CubFan Paul

          lol ..but this will probably be one of the offseason plans

        • willis

          Right, Castro’s range is not his problem, it’s his throwing. I would bump him over to 2B and put Barney at SS personally. Especially if Fielder is inked next year (which I don’t see happening).

  • Toosh

    Just read at ESPNChicago that Ricketts has hired a Professional Penny Pincher. Not good.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll have to write that up. Yeah, he does look like a Professional Penny Pincher. Of course, if the pennies he pinches from one area end up in the big league payroll, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

  • jstraw

    I thought the quality and continuity of the care his daughter is receiving in Chicago was a big deal to Demp. Is this no longer the elephant in the room?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think that was more of an extremely educated guess than anything else. Dempster could be gaming the Cubs for more money by not saying, “of course I’m staying, this is where my daughter needs to be,” but it’s my understanding that he would genuinely consider playing elsewhere next year under the right circumstances.

    • hardtop

      she’s doing much better… i don’t think this situation would preclude him from considering a 2 or 3 year contract elsewhere at this point.

      • jstraw

        I guess we’ll see. He’s a rich man and he’s got just enough career left to bet it on the Cubs’ future. And even if leaving now has no negative impact on his family, he’s built up his foundation and annual benefit in Chicago and that would suffer dramatically from a relocation.

  • RY

    lets not forget how atrociously awful he was the first month and a half, if i remember right, at one point this year, he was the worst regular starter statistically speaking; i dont think an american league team would touch him. he may have 1.5 good seasons left in him so i definitely wouldnt give him a huge deal just to keep him here, we are going to be awful next year anyway so if we can put to better use his $14 million then so be it. i like ron’s idea of a front loaded contract. would never give him more than a 3 yr deal nor would i give him more than 10/11 per on avg.

  • dreese

    Just for comparison, how much is CJ projected to get this off season?

    • CubFan Paul

      CJ will get $15-$20million annually easily and he’ll definitely test the free agent market to do so ..i read this earlier
      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/08/will-cj-wilson-get-100-million.html

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Interestingly, that will be the subject of an upcoming post. I think it could fall anywhere in a pretty huge range, given the lack of SP talent on the market.

      • dreese

        I havent researched much of the upcoming SP FA market but im guessing CJ is tops and it falls off after that?

        • MichiganGoat

          Yeah after him there isn’t much (unless CC opts out), sadly Paul Maholm might be next FA worth signing. It’s a thin, thin class… which is why Dempster might be highly sought after if he becomes a FA.

        • Robbo

          There are plenty of mid-rotation guys available this offseason but CJ Wilson and CC Sabathia (If he opts out) are the only legit front end of the rotation guys out there. Just about every other FA SP has question marks. Mark Buehrle could be good consistent starter to bank on 200 IP, 3.50 ERA in the middle of rotation, but he is likely to stay on south side or go home to St Louis.

          There are a lot of closers becoming available. If new GM can find some SP thru trades Cubs could package bullpen arms and then reload the pen in free agency

          • dreese

            Im really excited about having a new GM cause he/she might just tear the team apart with trades and everything or they could do nothing except FA pick ups it will be fun to watch this off season

        • Dave

          From Cots:
          2012 Free Agent pitchers (asterisk means there is an option)

          Mark Buehrle CWS
          Chris Carpenter STL *
          Bruce Chen KC
          Aaron Cook COL *
          Kyle Davies KC
          Ryan Dempster CHC *
          Justin Duchscherer OAK
          Zach Duke ARI *
          Jeff Francis KC
          Freddy Garcia NYY
          Jon Garland LAD *
          Aaron Harang SD
          Rich Harden OAK
          Livan Hernandez WAS
          Edwin Jackson CWS
          Kenshin Kawakami ATL
          Scott Kazmir LAA
          Hiroki Kuroda LAD
          Rodrigo Lopez CHC
          Paul Maholm PIT
          John Maine COL
          Jason Marquis WAS
          Kevin Millwood NYY
          Scott Olsen PIT *
          Roy Oswalt PHI *
          Brad Penny DET
          Oliver Perez NYM
          Joel Pineiro LAA
          CC Sabathia NYY (may opt out)
          Carlos Silva NYY
          Javier Vazquez FLA
          Adam Wainwright STL *
          Tim Wakefield BOS
          Chien-Ming Wang WAS
          Brandon Webb ARI
          C.J. Wilson TEX
          Chris Young NYM

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