If you're cagey, you've probably noticed that the title of this piece implies that Ryan Dempster is a 'trade target', a player that the Indians might acquire through an exchange of player sometime over the next few weeks. We'll play along with that as a premise, but we should probably be clear: as the first piece in this series indicated, Cleveland's farm is fallow and Dempster, in a year without a CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee on the market, may very well demand a price the Indians cannot afford.
|162 Game Avg.||9||10||4.30||43||25||15||1||0||7||173||169||89||83||18||78||149||99||1.432||8.8||1.0||4.1||7.8||1.91|
|CHC (9 yrs)||67||64||3.72||372||152||183||3||1||87||1170.2||1083||538||484||108||462||1062||116||1.320||8.3||0.8||3.6||8.2||2.30|
|FLA (5 yrs)||42||43||4.64||124||121||1||7||2||0||759.2||772||415||392||90||395||628||92||1.536||9.1||1.1||4.7||7.4||1.59|
|CIN (2 yrs)||8||12||6.39||37||35||1||1||0||0||204.1||236||150||145||30||108||150||66||1.684||10.4||1.3||4.8||6.6||1.39|
- Dempster's career deserves a post all its own. Some of the things Dempster has done:
- Served as the ace of a bad Florida Marlins team, which was managed by a man whose name I do not think I've ever heard: John Boles. Google Image is really not helpful.
- Pitched in a truly horrific Cincinnati Reds rotation which was fronted by our old friend Danny Graves. Seriously, go look at that rotation — is that the worst one in recent memory? The best pitcher in it had an ERA+ of 89.
- When his career appeared totally over — which appeared to be the case for a lot of the guys pitching in Cincinnati around that time — he resurrected his career as a first decent, then Borwoskian closer for the Cubs.
- When his career again appeared over because he was a lousy closer for the Cubs, he insisted he become a starter, added a weird glove flap that commentators talk about incessantly, and transformed into a totally reasonable starter.
All this is to say, in a sport that spawns many odd trajectories, Dempster's is especially weird. It's only fitting that now, as he hits the trading block near the end of his career, Dempster is in the midst of another weird chapter, leading baseball with a 1.86 ERA despite being substantially the same pitcher he was last year, when he posted an ERA near five. As with most nice pitching runs, Dempster has benefited from a high LOB% and a lack of balls leaving the park, while also making some of his own luck, especially through a decreased walk rate. And, of course, this is happening at exactly the moment when former boy wonder Theo Epstein needs it to, giving the Cubs first year GM a chance to rebuild his farm through some deadline dealing. If you forced me to draw an analogy (which is increasingly common these days — people are constantly forcing me to draw analogies), I'd say Dempster is just Derek Lowe from his first few starts of 2012, except Dempster's luck hasn't yet turned. In short, Dempster is durable and capable of putting together a nice run, which he's doing. How long will that run last though? And what's that really worth?
Demptster is being paid $14,000,000 this year and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
The Indians have only used six starters all year, which is a little disorienting considering ten pitchers started games for the 2011 Indians. However, the low number of starters needed hasn't been a result of great performance: the bottom of the Indians rotation reasonably starts after Justin Masterson and Derek Lowe who are, incidentally, the middle of the rotation. There is no top. Anyway, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, and Jeanmar Gomez have all struggled mightily this season, although each has also put together limited runs of success (Tomlin being the most limited in that department). Zach McAllister, who took Gomez's spot when Jeanmar finally got sent to Columbus, has so far been serviceable. However, his minor league track record indicates Cleveland should proceed with caution.
Point being: Dempster fits onto the team because, even at his 2009-2011 levels he'd still obviously be one of the Indians top three pitchers. To accomodate him, one of Tomlin or McAllister would likely go down, or maybe Ubaldo would come down with a strain that required a rehab assignment. This last scenario is particularly plausible if Jimenez doesn't bounce back well from the Terror in Toronto, as I'm calling his last start, often and in public, receiving in response only quizzical stares.
I've never been terribly good at this game, and I didn't want to just re-list Gomez, McAllister, Barnes, and some relief arm, which Ryan pegged as the price for Quentin. My assumption is that Epstein will focus less on a player that can help in the immediate term (the Cubs are not in good shape going forward, especially with regards to their rotation), and instead seek some pieces that can contribute to the Cubs next pennant run. Of course, maybe Epstein plans to go crazy on the market and fix the rotation, meaning he needs to plug some holes for 2013.
At any rate, what I've outlined here is basically three lottery tickets: two pitchers that were considered decent prospects entering the season and an international signee who's long on tools and has made some strides in his age 20 season in High A. I seriously doubt this set of players would get it done, but I figure this is one route the Cubs might look: try to extract a few two and three star prospects that have ETAs in the 2015 neighborhood.
More likely, I think, is that the Cubs get offered the equivalent of Jed Lowrie or Anthony Rizzo — a very good prospect who has nowhere to go in his current organization. A player like that can both plug an immediate hole and be a part of a pennant run in a few seasons. The Indians don't really have that player; Donald, Phelps or LaPorta come closest but those guys haven't been well regarded by scouts in years (if ever). There's a lot of players the Indians could package for Dempster without blinking an eye, I just suspect they won't be able to overwhelm quality with quantity in this case, or in this market generally.