Despite low expectations for impact moves by the Cubs this off season, the hot stove talk is already heating up. Carrie Muskat of Cubs.com has heard that the Chicago Cubs have been in touch with Ryan Dempster’s agent about a possible reunion in 2013. It is no secret that the North Siders need to plug some serious holes in the starting rotation behind Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.
However, the news that the door is open a crack for a return is a bit surprising. After all, how can Cubs fans forget reality tv worthy drama revolving around the attempt to trade Dempster last July? The Canadian starting pitcher, who had a no trade clause, had provided Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer a short list of teams Dempster would approve a trade to. The Cubs front office duo was on the verge of completing a deal to obtain a top Atlanta Braves pitching prospect when Dempster declined at the last minute. This is where the he said, she said finger pointing speculation began through the media. There was word that Dempster was irked from finding out about the trade via the media after a nap instead of being told firsthand by Epstein or the Cubs. Then there was an angle that Dempster was in fact trying to pressure a deal to the Dodgers so that he could pitch and hang out with his good buddy Ted Lilly. It even got personal when a rumor leaked out that a possible divorce from his wife was impacting Dempster’s decision on whether or not to accept a trade.
To the credit of the Cubs front office, they did not explicitly blast Dempster via the media, choosing instead to keep plugging away and find another deal that would get Dempster’s okay. They apparently went as far as allowing the right handed pitcher to hang out in the front office and listen in on phone calls on deadline day as Epstein and Hoyer tried to pound out last minute trade options. Their efforts were rewarded by a deal with the Texas Rangers. In exchange the Cubs received a couple Class A prospects, a third baseman in Christian Villanueva and a pitcher in Kyle Hendricks.
Dempster went on to go 7-3 for the AL West Rangers, but the back to back AL champions failed to crack into the 2012 playoffs via the Wild Card game route. While the win loss record looked good, his ERA took a monstrous hit after making the transition from the NL to the AL. He finished with a 5.09 ERA for Texas, dragging up his ERA to 3.38 for the season when he had departed the Cubs with a 2.25 mark.
Meanwhile, the Cubs front office did quietly express some displeasure and frustration on how the trade of Dempster ended up panning out. However, if there is in fact mutual interest for a reunion, the relationship between team and player must not be as fractured as originally thought.
From that question the focus turns to whether or not Dempster would even be a fit for the rebuilding Cubs. From the standpoint of the pitcher himself, there would be the sense of comfort and familiarity by returning to Wrigley Field and the team where he saw the majority of his success as a starting pitcher. His comedic personality generally went over well in the clubhouse, and he would be a veteran leadership presence for both the pitching staff and the roster as a whole.
But the question is whether or not both sides would be able to agree on money. Dempster earned $14 million in 2012, and his performance between Chicago and Texas last season certainly does not warrant much of a pay cut on the open market. At age 35 and counting, there would also be doubt as to whether Dempster would fit into the long term plans of the rebuilding Cubs.
Time will tell if the talks will ever get serious from the current “staying in touch” mode, but odds are Dempster will land with a National League team not nicknamed the Cubs.