The case against Ryan Dempster
Rumors out of Chicago have the Cubs close to re-signing Ryan Dempster to a 4 year deal worth $50 million, or roughly $12 million per season. This is about a year more than what I think Dempster deserves, and while it will be unpopular I'm prepared to make my case against him here.
First, let's look at the positives. In his first season as a starter for the Cubs, Clownsevelt had a pretty kick ass season. He went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA before imploding in the playoffs. For that reason, he's looking at a 7 to 10 million dollar per year pay raise, and I can understand why.
As a teammate, Dempster is well-liked and is well-known for keeping the boys loose. On a team without a distinct leader-type, Dempster has to have some points accumulated toward his Leadership Factor Score.
In other words, Dempster was a reliable, good player in 2008. Now, as to why I don't think he deserves it ...
At the age of 31, Dempster has played in 11 seasons in the majors. In those 11 seasons, he's been a starter for 7 of them. In those 7 turns as a starter, he's had exactly 2 seasons that were better than mediocre - 2000 and 2008. His third best year was 2001 in which he went 15-12 with a 4.94 ERA and 112 walks in 211.1 innings pitched.
During the 2003 season, after having started the year with a 3-7 record and an ERA of 6.54, Dempster suffered damage to his elbow and required Tommy John Surgery. According to Will Carroll, a guy who knows more than me about these sorts of things, TJS has an interesting side-effect - a pitcher's arm is pretty close to indestructible for the next 5 seasons. After that, he's susceptible to re-injuring his arm.
While he's pitched well - but not spectacular - as a Cub before 2008, Dempster had to have been a tremendous surprise in the '08 season. Then again, he was in a contract year. But while I'm not predicting that he's likely to suffer arm problems next year - or ever again - I do think he's going to be hard-pressed to match his numbers from '08.
That isn't to say he won't be a bust in 2009. My feelings are that he'll win more than 14 games but fewer than 17, and will have an ERA higher than 3 but lower than 4. But while he very well may be a reliable pitcher next year, and even the year after that, considering how unlikely it is that he'll ever put up comparable numbers to this season - unless he's the right-handed Jamie Moyer, pitchers rarely enter a higher level of ability after they turn 30 - I just can't believe that he's worth the risk of a large, 4 year contract.
3 years plus an option I can get behind. 12 million a year per year I can accept. But let me also ask you this: considering how deep the free agency market is for starters this season, and especially considering how the economy is in the tank - which will certainly have an effect on the revenue of teams next season - isn't it possible that the Cubs would be able to sign a good starter even if they lost Dempster?
I realize it's a risky proposition, but I just have to think that Hendry and the Cubs could've found a replacement who will do as well and pay him less than what Dempster is bound to earn.
But then again, maybe I'm making much ado about a whole lot of nothing. I suppose that 1 extra year on a contract shouldn't make or break bringing back Dempster, especially if he's agreable to something that pays 12 million or less. I can certainly be accused of nit-picking in this case. I just feel, I dunno, as if Hendry and the Cubs could've done better.
So, in conclusion, I'll simplify it by saying this:
- He might not stay healthy for 4 years
- He is unlikely to be as consistently good as he was in 2008
- There are other free agents available who are just as likely to do as well as Dempster but may be less expensive
- He's only had 2 good years ever, and it seems like an awful risk to throw 50 million at a guy with his track record
And that's all I have to say about that ... erm, for now.
The Case For Dempster, a rebuttal
I fully expect one of my fellow Goat Riders to strongly disagree with me. I welcome one - or more - to post their thoughts in this article, here. (I'm looking at you, Rob)