Although we’ve heard their name in passing before, we haven’t heard the Cardinals ever listed as one of Ryan Dempster’s primary suitors.

Now we have. A Major League source tells Bruce Levine that the Cardinals have emerged in recent days as a strong suitor for Dempster, right up there with the Dodgers and Braves.

The Cardinals have a strong farm system, particularly at the top. But, the thing is, the Cubs absolutely aren’t getting outfielder Oscar Tavares in a Ryan Dempster deal, and they almost certainly aren’t getting pitcher Shelby Miller. Those are the Cardinals’ top two prospects, and, from there, the system drops off a little bit. There’s still plenty of interesting players, though.

On a personal level, although I want the Cubs to get the best deal they can, and I want Dempster to wind up somewhere he’s happy (I’d be surprised if he wouldn’t be OK with heading to St. Louis), I really hope he isn’t sent to the Cardinals. I want to be able to root for Dempster for the rest of this year, and in the playoffs. If he winds up on the Cards, that’s just not possible.

Levine adds, by the way, that his source tells him Dempster has not yet been asked to approve or reject a particular deal.

If the Cubs are to trade Dempster before his start tomorrow, they’ll have to line up a replacement starter. Chris Rusin, currently at Iowa, is the guy who’s supposed to start there on Friday. He’s not on a 40-man roster, though, so it’s possible the Cubs might prefer to have someone already on the 40-man take Dempster’s spot. The best guess there would be Casey Coleman, who last threw on Saturday, which means he’d be due to pitch today. If he’s held out today, you can take it as a sign that the Cubs are anticipating at least the strong possibility of a Dempster trade by tomorrow.

Although we’ve heard multiple reports state authoritatively that the Cubs would be dealing Dempster before tomorrow (and then a dozen that said the Cubs would sure like to), there’s a procedural hurdle to keep in mind: even if the Cubs come to an agreement, say, this morning, they’ll have to give Dempster some time to think about the deal, before approving or rejecting it. Further, if there’s a substantial exchange of money, which there probably will be, the Commissioner’s Office usually has to sign off.

I still think there’s a slightly better than 50/50 chance Dempster is dealt before his scheduled start tomorrow night, but this might have to drag on for another five-day set.

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