The case FOR Ryan Dempster
Kurt ain't gonna like this, because even 4x12 isn't gonna be enough.
It is 4 x 13, according to the SunTimes.
Which is, from the top of my head, a little less than what Jake Peavy stands to make through his contract. But, Kurt and others are yelling right now, YOU (me) said Jake Peavy is an ACE, and Ryan Dempster is NOT.
Yep, I said that. I meant it, too. And I still do. I most certainly think, even with Dempster back in the fold, that there is still room for Peavy. I could certainly go to war next year with Peavy, Dempster, Zambrano (who has done his best work as a #3 starter), Lilly and Harden as the Best Fifth Starter In The History of Baseball. Oh yeah, I would.
But that doesn't prove the point that Ryan Dempster is worth the fourth year. It wouldn't make ANY difference if I told you that 4x13 was less than what I figured he was going to get. I figured in the 2008-9 CC Sabathia Sweepstakes Season, that we would be lucky if Dempster came back to us for 4x14.
I am willing to bet right now that once the exclusivity window expired, that Dempster and his agent were expecting just a groundswell of glad tidings and expressions of desire, and all they got was "we're waiting on Sabathia" and "we're broke" and "what did you say your name was?" I'm thinking that this was a useful exercise for all parties. Dempster probably saw that he wasn't going to find a more supportive front office than the one he has. And the Cubs got to see that it isn't that easy to just go out and replace 17 wins, because they don't have the prospects to trade for a Peavy, and they won't spend the money to sign an A. J. Burnett, who is also not a staff ace, but will end up with more money than Dempster, based on the widespread belief that the AL is the superior league, and that Burnett's 18 wins mean more. Which may or may not be true (future column idea for a Colin or a Kyle? I don't want any part of it. Like I say, I could give a rat's patoot less about the rest of MLB)
So, was this year a typical salary drive, or was this a genuine, sincere effort to finally meet the expectations that Ryan Dempster has had since the year he broke in with Florida? Obviously, if this was a salary drive, then this was some SERIOUS wasted money. One could, and someone will, end up playing the race card on this one. Somehow dorky white guys from some backbacon village in BC don't conduct salary drives? They spend the winters running up and down Saddleback Mountain for no other reason than self-actualization, to become all they can be? And what if, say, Derrek Lee worked his ass off especially hard this off-season and posted a 35/115/.320 next year, it being his salary year at roughly the same age? In fact, my recent bellyaches aside, Lee has had a more productive four year stretch than Dempster has had with us. But mark my words, if Lee comes back strong next year, then holds his hand out, people are going to shout SALARY DRIVE! And just because he's a cheery glass of milk, we're just supposed to TRUST Dempster to be able to post the same numbers the next four years?
Um, well. Seems like I have hoisted myself on my own petard. Except that the Cubs just signed someone who possesses #2 Starter talent, and who has put up #2 Starter results (at least in 2008), and is in the best shape of his life, for #2 Starter money. And unlike an outside free agent, the Cubs have had the opportunity to employ this man for the past six years, and don't have to rely on scouting reports or the empty promises of an agent to know what kind of competitor he is.
Between Ramirez, Lee, and to an extent Kerry Wood, the Cubs have had decent success in the past three years with re-signing their incumbent free-agent candidates. (Jury's still out on Zambrano). They know what they have, and they didn't skew any existing salary structures in the process. In the wild weird world of Major League Baseball spending, the Cubs could have done a lot more risky things than sign Ryan Dempster to 4x13MM.