I cannot stress firmly enough that this is just one report, based on one source, which might not ultimately be true. That said, it’s from Ken Rosenthal, who isn’t going to put his name out there on something like this unless it’s moderately solid.
And it’s not great news.
According to Rosenthal, for now, Ryan Dempster prefers to block the trade to the Atlanta Braves – which would have netted the Cubs Randall Delgado, a hell of a great return – while holding out hope that, in the next week, the Cubs can work out a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs and Dodgers previously stalemated on trade talks, presumably because of the Cubs’ insistence on the inclusion of top pitching prospect Zach Lee. If the Cubs are now forced to go back to the Dodgers, hat in hand, not only would they not get Lee, they wouldn’t get a value even coming close to Delgado.
In short, if true, this could be disastrous for the Cubs.
But that’s the rub: “if true.” Many other sources, including the Atlanta Braves, remain optimistic and hopeful that the Braves deal will still get done.
We don’t know the details for certain, but it had been reported that the Braves were second on Dempster’s list of preferred trade spots. The Dodgers were first.
Try to do your best not to rush to judgment here, though I know how this looks for Dempster. We don’t know what’s really going on yet.
UPDATE: Carrie Muskat reports that the claims that Dempster is holding things up because he was blindsided by the trade are not true. Instead, “Sources say he did know about the Braves offer, but was surprised at how public the deal became before he had made his decision.” Maybe he was surprised/angered that the deal became public because he knew he preferred to go to LA, and he didn’t want to look like the bad guy when he asked the Cubs to keep trying to get him to LA. Sounds like a pretty good theory to me.
UPDATE 2: Phil Rogers says folks in Atlanta are confused about Dempster’s reasons for not (yet) approving the deal. Rogers adds: “He prefers to be on the West Coast, Rosenthal suggests, because he has family in Vancouver and wants his three children to be close to relatives while he’s away. It’s unclear if Epstein can re-engage the Dodgers in trade talks. They backed away over the weekend, unwilling to meet the Cubs’ demands for a player they might have only for the rest of this season, and that led to the agreement with the Braves. This could become quite a mess, especially given how happy the Cubs were to have agreed to a deal bringing right-hander Randall Delgado from the Braves.”
UPDATE 3: Mark Bowman, who broke the original story about the trade, writes that Dempster has not yet officially rejected the trade, but that the Braves are losing some confidence that he’ll ultimately approve the deal. And then Bowman started writing about other Braves options, like Zack Greinke, and I got very sad. I also got sad when he mentioned that the Braves deal also included “at least” one more minor league player coming to the Cubs.
UPDATE 4: A source tells Jayson Stark that the status of Cubs/Braves/Dempster should be resolved “shortly,” and the Cubs have stayed in contact with the Dodgers and Braves throughout this process. Tim Brown adds that the Cubs anticipated this possibility, and stayed in touch with the Dodgers about Dempster (and Garza) yesterday.
UPDATE 5: Remember Kevin Goldstein’s comment yesterday that a source told him there is a 24-hour moratorium on 10/5 players approving these trades. So, if the trade was agreed to around this time yesterday, we might be hearing VERY soon.
UPDATE 6: Doug Padilla says Ryan Dempster has arrived in the Cubs’ clubhouse, and adds this: “Deal w Braves looks to be dying on the vine.”
UPDATE 7 (at 3:19pm CT): Dempster has finally spoken with the media, which quotes you can track from the beat guys on Twitter. He said he’s weighing his options, and plans on starting tomorrow for the Cubs. When asked if it’s 100% certain he starts tomorrow for the Cubs, he said that is his “mindset.” He wishes he had more options (translation: wishes a Dodgers deal was on the table), and he might take as much as a week to weigh the decision with his family. He wasn’t blindsided by the deal – the Cubs kept him informed. He was blindsided by the fact that the deal leaked to the media before he had a chance to decide. Dempster says he hasn’t made any decisions (in other words, he’s not formally blocking a trade to the Braves yet).
UPDATE 8 (at 3:22pm CT): Are the Cubs really going to let Dempster start tomorrow? I understand if Demp wants his time to think things over, but, since the world already knows he wants to go to the Dodgers, and only *might* go to the Braves, there is NOTHING to be gained by starting him tomorrow. There is only something to lose.
UPDATE 9 (at 3:26pm CT): This tweet from Paul Sullivan stings: “Demp: Decision ‘gets harder when something that wasn’t supposed to become public knowledge becomes public knowledge.'” And he’s right – if you don’t see why, just read the comments for all the anger and vitriol. Unrelatedly, and, as I suspected, Dempster is open to an extension, but isn’t asking for one as part of the process.
UPDATE 10 (at 3:30pm CT): I respect Dempster’s right to take his time making a decision, but the longer this drags out, it just hurts the Cubs in so many ways. Maybe the Braves decide to move on. Maybe teams want to wait on making a Garza offer until they know what’s happening with Dempster. Maybe the market shifts strongly downward as more teams start selling. Maybe Dempster gets hurt. This isn’t a worst case scenario quite yet, but this is just going horribly for the Cubs.
UPDATE 11 (at 3:43pm CT): Dempster can say he might take this decision up to the deadline, but that won’t happen – the Braves will pull the offer long before then, because they’ve got to figure out what they’re going to do. The Cubs probably can’t wait that long, either. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: the Cubs lined up a deal with the Braves after talks with the Dodgers fell through. It wasn’t final, and it wasn’t going to be announced. The Cubs were going to take it to Dempster, and Dempster was going to say, “well, can you try to get a deal to the Dodgers first?” And the Cubs would go to the Dodgers and try to beat the Delgado offer, or at least get a comparable deal (fat chance without Zach Lee – and fat chance on Zach Lee). But, since the story broke, Dempster and the Cubs were both put in a crappy spot. Dempster now looks like a bad guy, and the Cubs have no leverage with the Dodgers.
UPDATE 12 (at 3:54pm CT): Dave O’Brien (Atlanta Journal Constitution) says the Braves are looking at other options while they wait on Dempster. We knew that would happen. He adds that the deal is neither officially nor unofficially off the table quite yet, though.
UPDATE 13 (at 4:18pm CT): Just great. From Mark Bowman: “Dempster’s decision to wait has led a number of teams to call the Braves today about their top pitching prospects. Teams seemed to have gained interest once they saw Braves might be willing to go for it all this year by dealing one of these prospects.”
UPDATE 14 (at 4:39pm CT): Jon Heyman says the Cubs have, indeed, re-engaged the Dodgers in trade talks. I doubt they ever really stopped. For now, the only leverage the Cubs have with the Dodgers – assuming Dempster isn’t open to going to Atlanta while L.A. is still in the picture – is by saying, “you don’t step up your offer, and we’re fully prepared to keep him, make him a ‘qualifying offer’ ($12.5 million) after the season, and try and get a draft pick.”
UPDATE 15 (at 5:08pm CT): Braves’ GM Frank Wren made some comments to the media, including saying that it’s not a good thing that this deal got out (blame your own front office, dude), and the Braves still have scouts all over the country scouting other pitchers. They’d like to acquire a pitcher before the break. For now, the deal for Dempster is not dead, and is in Dempster’s hands. Wren added that, even if word of the deal hadn’t gotten out, Dempster was still going to need time to think it over (per my earlier explanation, I take that to mean: Dempster was going to need a little time to ask the Cubs to try and make one last push to deal him to the Dodgers).
UPDATE 16 (at 5:54pm CT): Interesting comments from Chipper Jones, via Dave O’Brien: “People have got to want to come here. But it’s not over. I’m sure that when you’ve been in one spot for a really long time, being traded is a big adjustment, and there’s more than just the business of baseball at hand. You’ve earned the right as a 10-and-5 guy to pick and choose where you go. And family becomes a big part of the decision-making process. The fact that we’re in the Southeast and we train in Florida, all that stuff is a factor. So, bottom line is Ryan is going to make the best decision for him and his family. And if decides that he doesn’t want to come here, then that’s just something that we’re going to have to deal with and move on. These trades just don’t happen overnight. There’s days and days and weeks and weeks of communication between the two sides to try and get something done by a specific deadline. We were led to believe that this could happen, which is why we put the effort into it. Now it seems like that might not be the case. It puts Frank in a tough spot, but that’s why they pay Frank the big bucks. He’s got to have Plan B through D. I’m sure that if Ryan decides to stay in Chicago or go someplace else, Frank will have something on the back burner.”
UPDATE 17 (at 7:52pm CT): You’ll have to forgive me. The last two days have been a bit frustrating for me (though I’m not complaining!), so I had to step away for a bit to play some tennis. I’m blacked out from tonight’s game anyway. In any event, Jon Morosi tweeted earlier that “Source says there are ways for Dodgers to get Ryan Dempster from Cubs without surrendering Zach Lee.” You’ll forgive me for hoping that isn’t true, but, without much leverage, it sure could be. Also, BN’er Jim is at the game tonight, and he says Dempster hasn’t been in the dugout. Anyone else seeing that? It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, and, at most, might mean only that Dempster has been having conversations that require him not to be in the dugout.