It’s easy to say, and you’re going to hate to hear it, but it’s true once again: the odds that Ryan Dempster makes his next scheduled start for the Cubs – next week in Pittsburgh – are quite small. Of course, that was true of his start last night. Ask any pundit, and they’ll tell you it was surprising (a source suggested to me that the start was an unfortunate byproduct of various negotiations that had become complicated – I think we probably could have guessed that, given that common sense tells you the Cubs wouldn’t have started Dempster unless they felt they absolutely had to in order to ensure they get an appropriate return in trade).
Obviously, an acceptable offer simply wasn’t there by game time, however close the Cubs might have been to pulling the trigger on a variety of possible deals that were on the table. The Cubs played chicken with the offering teams, and, while they didn’t clearly win, at least they didn’t veer off the road in a fiery immolation. That is to say, Dempster’s start wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, and he didn’t get hurt.
A trade is still highly likely to happen, but we might have to linger for a few more days before a resolution becomes clear. I strongly doubt this goes to the trade deadline, as the Cubs are not going to want the Dempster market to be competing with the Matt Garza market. When you have two commodities to sell, and largely the same buyer base, if you try to sell both commodities at the same time, you depress the price on both. Not a good idea.
As for the latest on the rumor front …
- Bruce Levine dropped a number of bits in his latest piece, including the fact that the Red Sox have made an offer for Dempster (so, per my report earlier in the week, that would be your second team with an offer on the table, together with the Dodgers). Levine adds that the Nationals aren’t a great fit, the Braves might not want Dempster because they don’t expect he’ll re-sign after the season, and the Cubs/Cardinals aren’t likely to come together on a deal.
- One big thing Bruce says, which we’ve suspected, but here’s your first sourced statement on it: “most teams expect Dempster to return to the Cubs as a free agent after this season.” It’s certainly more possible than most of these situations, but I’m still not sure the Cubs will want Dempster back, except maybe on the the most team-friendly deal ever.
- NBC Chicago’s Peggy Kusinski says one possible reason for a hold up in a Dempster trade: Dempster could be leveraging his no-trade rights into an extension (she mentions two years, and the Dodgers, specifically). I hadn’t yet heard that, and it would surprise me a little (especially given that last bit from Levine), but an extension window would probably increase the Cubs’ return on a Dempster trade slightly. No, I don’t think it would net them Zach Lee, but it could be the difference between one decent prospect + one mediocre prospect and two decent prospects.
- Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are “trying hard” to get Dempster. He lists the Tigers and Braves as well, but says the Dodgers are still viewed as the favorite. George Ofman notes, however, that the Tigers may be more interested in Garza than in Dempster.
- Ken Rosenthal, however, just this morning cites a source who tells him the Dodgers are “very unlikely” to get Dempster, preferring not to give up top prospects for a rental. I’m sure that’s true, but that could also be the kind of thing you leak to the media, to try and scare the Cubs into accepting a lesser deal.
- Dale Sveum conceded yesterday that a trade could be close, acknowledging that he kept his phone on “loud” so that he could hear if he got a last minute call to pull Dempster.
- As for Dempster, himself, he says he’s not too concerned about all of the rumors swirling because he knows it’s ultimately in his hands, given his no-trade rights. “I’m not naive,” Dempster said. “I realize everything that’s going on. I’m well aware [a trade] can happen at any minute. I’m not going to walk on eggshells or worry about that. I can only focus on what I can focus on, and that’s going out there today and trying to pitch and do my job. Now my focus is to work hard tomorrow and get ready five days from now. [But, in reference to the no-trade rights, i]t’s awesome being the hammer and not the nail.”
- Former Cub and current Dodger Ted Lilly offers his seal of approval on a Dempster trade. “Obviously, he’s a very good pitcher,” Lilly said. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
- Jay Jaffe offers a compelling argument that Ryan Dempster’s trade value isn’t as much as you might think it is.