View From The Bleachers

July 20, 2012

The Return of Ryan Dempster?

Filed under: Featured,General — Jeremiah Johnson @ 3:35 pm

For several weeks now, we’ve been saying that Ryan Dempster’s next start could be his last as a Cub. Today it looks like he may have already made his last start for the team–and if he does take the mound this evening in St. Louis, it’s almost sure to be his last time for the Cubs. At least for this season.

The popular notion in some circles is that Dempster loves the Cubs and Chicago so much, he’ll give the team a Kerry Wood-esque discount to return next season. That theory assumes a lot, both on Dempster’s side and on the side of the Cubs’ new brain trust. Under Theo & Jed, the Cubs are getting younger, building an affordable core of young talent from within. Most people expect it to be seasons (plural) before they’re competing for the playoffs, and those are the optimistic projections (see cliches about turning around cruise ships for further details). An aging starter who–despite his recent success–has a spotty track record is most likely not on their shopping list.

On the other hand, the Cubs are very short on quality pitchers. That’s why they brought in Paul Maholm this last offseason, and why Theo & Jed will probably need to go fishing for another innings-eater next year.

If Demptster did give them a spectacular discount, it might be enough to make a return to the Northside viable. It really comes down to what other arms the Cubs are able to assemble through trades during the rest of this year and, and what is available during the offseason. I get the sense that they won’t rush a young guy to the mound just to fill a spot in the rotation. A cheap veteran would help bridge the gap between now and whenever we can field a viable, potent starting rotation.

“Cheap” being the operative word. Dempster is likely to get some excellent offers this offseason, especially if he keeps pitching like he has lately. But even if he stays on his Cy Young pace, he’s not likely to be the best pitcher available in free agency–Cole Hamels and Zack Grienke should both draw more attention and longer contracts. But those second tier guys often get good deals, too. Whether he signs ahead of the high-dollar pitchers, or he waits to sign with a team that missed on their first choice, it looks like he could cash in bigtime once more before his career is over.

But no matter what offers roll in, he’d surely have to leave most of that money on the table if he wants to return to the Cubs. I’m not saying it’s impossible–just highly unlikely. To my knowledge, it’s only happened once before, with Kerry Wood. Or twice if you count Andre Dawson’s famous blank check.

Is Dempster that kind of guy? We’ll find out in a few months.


Just a quick programming note for this weekend. On Sunday, legendary Cubs’ player and broadcaster Ron Santo will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’ve written before (here, here, and here) about my affection and appreciation for Santo, and I’ll be watching closely–maybe tearfully–as Ron is enshrined in Cooperstown. I’ll probably have more to say about the induction ceremony and the speeches about Ron next week.

For now I just wanted to remind you that the ceremony is at 1:30pm ET. It will be broadcast live on the MLB Network, with coverage starting around 11:30am ET. You can also see a special, updated version of This Old Cub tomorrow on the MLB Network at 1:00pm ET.

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  • Jedi

    He owes us a Kerry Wood discount for the last three seasons where he’s been stealing money!

  • Kizzfastfists

    Fangraphs disagrees with you. Dempster has posted a 3.7, 3.4 and 2.8 WAR the last three seasons earning $42M over the last 3 seasons while getting paid $34M. This year he is sitting at a 2.3 WAR or $10M out of his $12M salary, with a few months to go. Dempster has a very consistent XFIP as a starter for the Cubs, finishing between 3.69 and 3.76 every season and this year it is at 3.71.

  • Chuck

    Why wouldn’t the Cubs want Dempster back?  Give me a good reason.  He is still a good pitcher and the Cubs desperately need good pitching.  Here a few likely arguments against having him back and my thoughts on them.
    He is old:  So what.  He is still good enough to be the best pitcher on the staff.  As long as he does not want a crazy-long contract, who cares.
    He will be expensive: So what.  The Cubs are one of the top money-making teams in all of sports.  They can afford to pay guys what they are worth.  So much the better if gives the Cubs a discount.  It is not my money so give him a fair deal.
    He is blocking a prospect: Ummmmm…  Who?  I don’t see anybody in the dreck at the back end of the rotation to get excited about as the future.  If a prospect has a good enough season to make the rotation, for the love of god take Volsted or Maholm’s spots.  Or, better yet, spend a year in  the bullpen to prove yourself.
    I don’t like Dempster: I don’t like you either.

  • Kizzfastfists

    I’m going to guess Dempster will want a three year deal. Do you really want a guy when he is 36, 37 and 38 for $10M+/yr who has a career 4.30 ERA? Do you think he is going to be able to repeat this career year? Did you also think Derrek Lee had found the fountain of youth in 2009? The Cubs are not going to be contender’s next year and the worst thing that could happen would be for Dempster to have one more monster season in him and hurt the Cubs draft position before age hits him in 2014 and 2015.

  • Doc Raker

    Sounds like Kissfastfists disagrees with Jedi, is fangraphs even a person?

  • Doc Raker

    I am having flashbacks to the Ted Lilly trade deal- “Lilly will come back to the Cubs next year” is what ‘they’ said, ‘they’ were wrong just like all the Milton Bradley supporters were wrong.

  • Kizzfastfists

    Dempster would not come back to the Cubs next year no matter what. He wants to play for a contender and that is not the Cubs.

  • Kizzfastfists

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Count me as one who hoped Lilly would return, and was annoyed when the Cubs didn’t even try to get him back.

    I’ll be far less torn up if Dempster signs elsewhere, but I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss him out of hand if he wanted to come back on the cheap.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I think the only reason Theo & Jed wouldn’t at least consider it is if they load up on pitching talent in the next few weeks and decide they have more than enough majors-ready starters going into next season.


    Teh ceremony is on Sunday, right?

    I think we should only bring him back if he agrees to a discount

  • Doc Raker

    I hoped Lilly would return also and it would be nice if Demp returned on the cheap but the business of baseball usually says no to that avenue, the players union doesn’t like contracts on the cheap.

  • Jedi

    Fangraphs disagrees with me a lot – I don’t lose any sleep over it.

    Baseball Reference has WARs of 3.2, 2.4, 0.5; I am decidedly NOT a fan of the Fangraphs formula for WAR.  (And ESPN has recently started using Baseball Reference’s numbers too).

    One other thing that Dempster is unbelievably consistent about; his HR/FB numbers skyrocket when he is NOT in the last year of a contract, then magically descend when he is – of course bringing down many of his other measurables at the same time.

  • Jedi

    By the way, when Dempster was signed in 2008, part of the justification was that he was definitely a No. 2 starter.  Even that’s debatable.  Since – he’s been pedestrian, until this year started.

  • Seymour Butts

    The ceremony is spread out over the weekend, Things we Cub fans are interested in include:
    Sat 11:30 AM party for Cub fans thrown by the club and it’s owners. I will be there, and Raker, I will likely be dining with some famous folks…..enjoy your $300 wine.
    Sat 4:30 induction of some broadcasters followed at about 6pm by the parade of members loaded up county fair style in pick up trucks,
    Sunday 1:30 The ceremony we care about. I will be the guy in a Cub home jersey with SANTO on the back, tie dye bandana topped by a  10 blue hat. The hot chick next to me is Mrs Butts,

  • Doc Raker

    Have fun Seymour. How crowded is it? Are you staying in town? Let me know how that small town feeds all these people for that weekend. 

  • Docrav

     30 miles away, it’s a zoo.
    Saw about a dozen fellow habitual campers. Fergie ernie, billy, Randy, Beck. As well as Ron jr and Jeff.
    Food was shared.

  • Docrav



    I’m in Columbus right now, I was in Cincinnati earlier, Reds fans seem to like Dusty. Tour of Great American was nice, as was the HOF

  • Doc Raker

    I am at Disneyland in CA, all the Disney characters are talking about a young prospect that just finished a rotation through DisneyWorld who goes by CAPS. You must of did some raking down in Orlando CAPS!


    I sure did.

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