I called it
Colin reported yesterday that Ryan Dempster will be testing the waters shortly, as he is looking for a 4 year deal or more while the Cubs are only going to offer him 3.
About a month back, when the season ended, I wrote the following: This is the biggest area of interest this off season. I'm sure there are some people who think that Dempster will be an elite pitcher next season. I'm not one of them. However, I do think he'll have a good 2009, and maybe even a good '10 and '11. If Jim Hendry can negotiate a reasonable deal with Dempster - say, 3 years for 30-36 million with an option for a 4th year - then I support his return. But if Dempster demands 4 or 5 years for 14 million or more, the Cubs will need to wish him the best and let him go.
It looks now as though Dempster is asking for just that, while the Cubs appear interested in offering the kind of deal I speculated on.
Consequently, Jim Hendry will have a busy week or two. He'll be trying to negotiate with Dempster while blowing up the phone lines of the San Diego Padres in order to land Peavy. Peavy would be costly, but let's remember two things - 1) he's the same age as Carlos, and 2) He's locked up for 4 years for barely more money than what Jason Marquis is making. If I'm the GM, Peavy is a must-have, as he is that rare ace pitcher with an affordable contract.
There is one other factor that will play out interestingly this off season for Dempster - most seasons, he'd be the top free agent pitcher on the market. This year, he's one of a bunch. While there is always a need for starting pitchers, there are also only so many dollars able to be spent and the market may be saturated to the point where the only guy to get what he "deserves" will be Sabathia. But even if Dempster goes, and even if Peavy's price is too costly, the Cubs will have the ability to replace Dempster with somebody for less-or-equal money who actually may outproduce Clownsevelt next season.
Those options look to include the following:
Jon Garland - 29, 14-8, 4.90 ERA
Braden Looper - 34, 12-14, 4.16 ERA
Derek Lowe - 35, 14-11, 3.24 ERA
Oliver Perez - 27, 10-7, 4.22 ERA
CC Sabathia - 28, 17-10, 2.70 ERA
Ben Sheets - 30, 13-9, 3.09 ERA
AJ Burnett - possible free agent - 31, 18-10, 4.07 ERA
And there are other good pitchers who could file but haven't yet. My current theory is also that one of the teams that loses out on some of the pitchers above might be willing to accept a trade for Jason Marquis rather than go home empty-handed.
Regardless, I'll end it by saying this - if Ryan Dempster can get 4 or 5 years elsewhere, then I believe the Cubs should wish him the best and send him on his way. At his age, after a career year, and without knowing if he can pitch consistently for another half decade, anything more than 3 years would be too much. There are other options out there, and the Cubs should pursue them.