Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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.

Dempster

Kurt, I would first like to thank you for writing an interesting post from a Chicago Cubs' fan perspective regarding SP Ryan Dempster's decision to test the free agent market this winter. Your knowledge as a fan exceeds most fan blogs I have read, and your insight provided me with more information than some professional blogs at ESPN or online newspapers. Many analysts and reporters believed Dempster would not consider testing the market following his impressive 2008 season when the starting pitcher went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA while tallying 187 strike outs in 206.2 innings pitched. You, however, linked to a previous post of yours written nearly one month ago that explained Dempster may not be with the Cubs next season. Despite Dempster's success in Chicago, I've always felt if a player has an option to cash in big, he will. In Dempster's case, he's 31 years old, and this may be his last opportunity to get that lucrative five year contract worth up to $100 million. While both of those numbers may be a bit of a reach, desperate teams have been known to offer worse - look at the San Francisco Giants and Barry Zito or the New York Yankees and Carl Pavano for two easy examples. In terms of your post, I like how you strongly stand by your belief that if Dempster wants a four or five year deal, the Cubs should let him go. While I don't agree with that feeling, I do recognize the benefits it provides for the Cubs, including the possible addition of SP Jake Peavy and the free salary cap flexibility. My thoughts, however, feel that great starting pitching is very hard to come by in the Majors, and I personally do not think the Cubs have enough to offer in their minor league system to the San Diego Padres for Peavy. I also really enjoyed the list of pitchers you wrote that may be able to help the Cubs next season. If Dempster doesn't return to the Cubs, where do you think he will end up and for how much money? And, who would the Cubs go after? Also, if he does return, do you still see the Cubs going after any of the pitchers on the list you mentioned?

Thanks v. much

I appreciate the kind words, jhabler.

I have no idea where Dempster will wind up, but I'd bet that a team like the Blue Jays would make a big play for him if they lose Burnett.

If Dempster goes, the Cubs have a number of options. First and foremost, whether Dempster goes or stays the Cubs will likely give Samardzija a shot in the rotation next season - he'd replace Ryan or theoretically Marquis if Hendry was able to hold onto Dempster.

Obviously there are a number of factors, but because the Cubs have some starting pitching depth, I don't think they would be overly-pressed to replace the departed Dempster via the free agent market. Instead, Hendry might take those savings and apply them to bolstering the bullpen, bringing back Wood, and hopefully upgrading either in the middle infield or in right field, not that there are a ton of options available on the market, either.

I'll probably write something up about it later on ... regardless, thanks again for the numerous compliments.

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