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Ryan Dempster Update

By bullpenbrian - August 28, 2012 - 1:30 am 2 comments.

After a rough debut for the Texas Rangers, Ryan Dempster has settled in fairly well with the AL West division leaders.

Dempster is (3-1, 2.99 ERA) since the trade having won three of his last four starts. In five outings he’s lasted six or more innings on every occasion except one, and three have been quality efforts.

It took Dempster 10 starts to earn his first win with Chicago this season, and it wasn’t until June 15 that he won his third game, largely due to a lack of run support.

That, of course, isn’t an issue in Texas. The Rangers lead the major leagues in runs scored (665). The Cubs, meanwhile, rank second to last (470).

THE LONG BALL

What is of concern, however, are the six home runs Dempster’s allowed. Only once has he avoided allowing a long ball with Texas after serving up all of nine home runs with the Cubs through 14 starts.

This pattern might be explained with his unfamiliarity with the American League, or it could be a reaffirming notion Dempster is better suited as a National League starter–not that there’s any going back at this point.

Also of interest is that of Dempster’s two bad outings (Angels, Yankees) he allowed eight earned-runs on both occasions against two teams Texas could very well face this postseason.

WILL DEMPSTER PITCH THIS OCTOBER?

It’s unlikely Ron Washington would pencil Dempster in as one of his top three postseason starters, which would appear to be Matt Harrison (15-7), Yu Darvish (12-9) & Derek Holland (8-6).

That leaves Dempster to compete with Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman & Roy Oswalt as the swing man in a seven game series. And even by the current numbers Dempster wouldn’t top that list either.

But I wouldn’t completely rule Dempster out of Washington’s postseason plans. I speculate there may be a scenario where Dempster is used in a late-inning relief role.

Dempster did manage 87 career saves for the Cubs, and if he does have aspirations of pitching this October, the bullpen may be his best, if not only, option to do so.

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Cubs Review: Epstein, Dempster And Sveum

By bullpenbrian - August 4, 2012 - 11:30 pm Leave a comment.

While the Cubs were busy this past week during the non-waiver trade deadline, I too had my hands full signing a new long-term contract.

I’ve had some Cubs thoughts on my mind after taking Thursday and Friday off to enjoy my mid-week wedding.

THE DEMPSTER TRADE

Kudos to Theo Epstein for spilling the beans on the Ryan Dempster trade saga. The fans deserved a more detailed explanation of why Dempster ended up with the Rangers and not the Braves besides defending his 10-5 rights.

We now know Dempster wasn’t blindsided by the Braves deal. In fact, the Cubs had informed Dempster days before about a possible trade to Atlanta.

Epstein also candidly admitted the difficulties in trading Dempster because the pitcher backtracked on his original word.

Perhaps the only thing more important for the Cubs this season than its July trades was the June Amateur Draft.

The Draft went off without a hitch, but the Cubs fell short of trade expectation thanks in large part to Dempster’s dishonesty.

His stubbornness on being traded to LA, who wasn’t willing to come off a fair trade return, and his indecision on accepting trades elsewhere, even teams he previously agreed to be traded to, left the Cubs in a compromising position while scrambling right up to the deadline to land anything of value in return for Dempster.

That’s why I’m giving Epstein and Jed Hoyer much credit for pulling off the Dempster trade in addition to the other trades made on Tuesday.

Sure, the Cubs deadline deals went far off-track from originally planned, but Team Theo got the job done in the end by landing several talented prospects.

DEMPSTER STILL A FAN FOVORITE?

At first news of the late Dempster trade I was disappointed the 35-year-old’s lasting image was of his refusal to go to Atlanta and his dugout outburst in Pittsburgh in what turned out to be his final outing in a Cubs uniform.

But with a better understanding of how the entire scenario played out, Dempster himself is the only one to blame for the lasting image he leaves with the Cubs–and it’s not a favorable one.

Let’s not forget Dempster had months to prepare himself to be traded. He’s the one who didn’t honor his own word, and it’s his problem, not the Cubs, the fan base soured on him so quickly.

It’s all fine and dandy Dempster exercised his 10-5 rights, I have no problem with it. But right now that appears a poor excuse after Team Theo played fairly, and they, not Dempster, were blindsided by the Braves fiasco.

That’s too bad because Demps has long been one of my favorite Cubs. However, I don’t feel the same way after this week, and I’m not sure that changes if he should return to the organization.

As of right now, good riddance.

POST TRADE DEADLINE WOES

When I settled into my Wrigley Field seat to watch the Cubs and Pirates square off Tuesday night I thought to myself “this Cubs lineup isn’t that bad.”

Sure Dempster, Maholm, Johnson and Soto had been dealt hours earlier, but the Cubs would still have a chance to play winning baseball with guys like DeJesus, Castro, Rizzo, Soriano, LaHair and Barney, right?

Immediately after Casey Coleman surrendered a fist inning grand slam, AJ Burnett toed the rubber and began setting down the first 11 Cubs batters he faced.

Adrian Cardenas, of course, eventfully broke up Burnett’s no-hit bid at 7.2 innings, but it meant little in a 5-0 loss.

The Cubs haven’t been any better since dropping the series finale against Pittsburgh 8-4 before losing consecutive games at Los Angeles 6-1 & 3-1.

CUBS (0-4) SINCE TRADE DEADLINE

The winless record since Tuesday is perhaps a sign this club is feeling the effects of watching some of its better and more respected players head towards greener pastures.

Nothing about this season’s struggles has come any easier for manager Dale Sveum. The recent slump is no exception.

How he’ll motivate his club the rest of the way will be of interest to me. As I’ve said before, it’s not so much about the Cubs overall record then how it is Sveum remains in control of the locker room.

I don’t doubt Sveum is the right man for the rebuilding job, but managers who lose 100-plus games don’t get much rope, even ones with lackluster rosters like the Cubs have for the remaining 57 games.

Right now the Cubs are on pace to finish the season (67-95).

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Who Did Cubs Get In Return For Trades?

By bullpenbrian - August 2, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

Catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for RHP Jacob Brigham

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo provided plenty of depth at the catcher’s position behind incumbent Geovany Soto entering the 2012 season.

Soto’s season long struggles at the plate, in addition to being the oldest and more expensive backstop, was also a deciding factor in shipping him to Arlington.

In return the Cubs receive Double-A right-hander Jacob Brigham. His fastball sits at 91-93 with an average curve and change. Brigham could fit into a middle relief role down the road.

Paul Maholm & Reed Johnson to Braves for pitchers Arodys Vizcaino & Jaye Chapman

This a classic example of buy low and sell high that has worked for the Cubs to bolster their farm system. Maholm’s sensational pitching of late seemed to considerably raise his trade value towards the deadline.

Johnson has been as steady as ever off the bench. His 13 pinch-hits are tied for the most in the majors and most importantly, he’s stayed healthy this season. Reed’s versatility defensively is also a plus, especially in the NL as a guy who does well spot-starting or coming in off the bench mid-game.

The return pieces for the Cubs are quite intriguing. Although Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, he was a top 3 prospect in a very deep Braves organization a year ago.

The Braves rushed him along last season and had slotted him into a relief role with the big club before his injury. He features a high 90’s fastball and an excellent curve with fantastic control.

If he doesn’t have the durability to continue as a starter, he certainly has the stuff to replace Carlos Marmol at closer.

Jaye Chapman is a 25-year-old reliever in Triple-A. He’s striking out 10.1 per 9 on his with a 3.52 ERA. He projects to be a middle reliever with an upside to be an impact player.

Ryan Dempster to Rangers for RHP Kyle Hendricks and 3B Christian Villanueva

The final deal was the most expected, although Texas ended up somewhat of a surprise destination for the 35-year-old Dempster.

Christian Villanueva was the only hitter acquired at the deadline by the Cubs. Seen as a sleeper around many scouts, he sports an above-average glove while hitting .285 with 10 home runs in advanced A-ball.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, throwing in the high 80’s, relies on his cutter and curveball as out pitches. He’s more of a throw-in to the deal, but projects as back end starter material.

In Summary

Theo and Jed concentrated their efforts to fill the need for pitching depth in the Cubs minor league system. The pair could also further increase the returns later this month with a deal for Soriano, who’s willing to waive his no-trade right to join a contender once he likely passes through waivers.

Matt Garza’s unfortunate injury, fluid build-up on his right triceps, appeared to kill the lack of interest from potential suitors at the deadline.

It appeared the Cubs had every intention of dealing Garza, but doing so will be on hold until the offseason as Garza is not an August trade candidate (no way he’ll get through waivers).

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cubs will reconsider offering Garza the long-term contract he so desires.

All things considered, the Cubs trade deadline deals were a good step in the right direction towards the massive rebuilding project.

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Celebrating the Trade Deadline

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 5:59 pm Leave a comment.

I found today’s non-waiver trade deadline thrilling. Lots of player movement, big names in the mix, and the hotly contested division races in both leagues seemed to get even tighter.

I’d love to ramble on about the winners and losers during today’s trading period, but the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter and then updating the trade tracker this afternoon is finally taking its toll.

By no means is this a complaint. There’s simply no place I’d rather be than working the phones and the keyboard like a mad-man! But the adrenaline from the early mornings hours has worn thin—Dempster, after all, has been traded!

So we’ll save those thoughts on the deadline trades for a latter post.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break from the computer and heading to Wrigley Field for tonight’s Cubs vs. Pirates game.

I’ll definitely do some tweeting, but I’m largely looking to relax for a bit and just enjoy watching the Cubs, or what’s left of them.

Greatly appreciate everyone who checked in on the Trade Tracker. Always looking out for the visual learners :)

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Latest Alfonso Soriano Trade Rumors

By bullpenbrian - July 27, 2012 - 3:01 am Leave a comment.

Soriano Trade

I’ve updated the graphic according to the latest trade rumors surrounding Alfonso Soriano.

The Indians have long been searching for a right-handed power bat and  appear they won’t stand much of a chance in the playoff race without one.

Tampa Bay is another likely suitor, but will need plenty of help financially from the Cubs, who by all accounts are willing to eat a generous amount of the enormous sum of money remaining on Soriano’s contract. The Rays also DFA 38-year-old Hideki Matsui (.147, 2 HR, 7 RBI) on Wednesday.

Baltimore, in need of more pop in its lineup, traded for Jim Thome three weeks ago. But the oft-injured 41-year-old slugger (he missed a month with back issues in Philadelphia) has hit but 2 HR with 5 RBI since joining the O’s.

The Giants are a dark horse, but could use more run production in its outfield, especially after the Dodgers landed Hanley Ramirez earlier this week.

I’m not ruling Los Angeles out until Ryan Dempster is traded elsewhere or it’s announced he’s sticking with the Cubs through 2012. The Dodgers still need offensive help, even after dealing for Ramirez, and the Cubs must be creative in trade talks as long as Dempster holds fast to his preference to pitch in LA.

As a reminder, the larger the team logo, the more rumored interest.

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Dempster On Damage Control

By bullpenbrian - July 26, 2012 - 7:37 am Leave a comment.

I get the sense there’s more to Ryan Dempster’s dugout tantrum than meets the eye.

Dempster says he was upset Dale Sveum pulled him after 6 innings and having allowed the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run to score during the Cubs 3-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh.

That seems reasonable. But what about what Dempster didn’t say?

It’s purely my speculation, but perhaps part of Dempster’s frustration taken out on the water cooler was the realization his final days wearing a Cubs uniform wasn’t turning out the way he envisioned.

It’s not ridiculous to think the drama of the past few days didn’t creep into Dempster’s head before, during or after his departure from Wednesday’s start, which is why I believe Dempster’s dugout tirade was fueled more from the unraveling of this past week than Sveum’s completely reasonable decision to pull his pitcher from the game.

Not only was Ryan coming off a tough loss against St. Louis, he was also dealing with the disappointment of not being traded to the Dodgers and then alienating a large portion of Cubs fans on Monday by exercising his 10-5 rights to refuse a trade to Atlanta–a team reportedly on Dempster’s approved teams to be dealt list.

Meanwhile, Dempster’s continued indecision approving a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles has only further ruffled feathers leading up to his recent start. The pressure was mounting, Sveum merely lifted the lid.

ARE THE DODGERS STILL AN OPTION? 

The Dodgers, who staunchly refused to come off its top pitching prospects in trade negotiations for Demspter last week, will now barter with Chicago knowing Theo & Jed have virtually zero leverage in peddling the 35-year-old rental.

It obviously posses a high-hurdle for the Cubs front office who now find themselves in a precarious spot: trade Dempster to the Dodgers for donuts, or risk playing chicken with the man who could toe the July 31 trade deadline still undecided about joining the Braves, or anyone else for that matter?

IS THIS WHAT DEMPSTER REALLY WANTED?

Say what you will about Demps, but the man’s no dummy. I’m certain he’s well attuned to his potential options, the ticking trade clock, and the volatile backlash from Cubs fans.

There’s simply no believing this is how Dempster wanted his Cubs farewell to play out–muddied up on Twitter and stealing the spotlight of baseball’s biggest trade rumors. But that perfect farewell, as Paul Sullivan of the Tribune alluded to, seems to have already come and gone.

For me that perfect ending came when Dempster tossed six shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on Saturday July 14 at Wrigley Field when he not only extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 33.0, but also retained the major’s best ERA and had won his fifth straight outing.

It presented the optimal chance for Team Theo to deal Dempster, his trade value was likely never to be higher, and what better sendoff could Dempster really expect?

Lord only knows if Dempster will depart Chicago via trade at this point. I sure as heck have given up making such predictions. But whether he stays, or he goes, it’s very possible Dempster can never recover from his fallout with Cubs fans after this week.

DEMPSTER’S DAMAGE CONTROL 

I see three scenarios that could cure the Dempster hurt once and for all.

  • 1.) Dempster throws a complete game shutout against the Pirates at Wrigley Field on Monday and then happily tells TheoJed he’ll approve any deal to the bust suitor for the Cubs.
  • 2.) The Dodgers agree to trade one of its top pitching prospects in return for Dempster sparking a no harm, no foul reaction from Cubs fans.
  • 3.) The Braves reconsider trading for Dempster and agree, at least in part, to the original framework of the trade that included highly regarded pitching prospect Randall Delgado.

We could stretch our imaginations to come up with a fourth scenario, but why waste our time? The way things are developing it’s probably more likely to happen than the first three.

Whatever the case may be, I’m still hopeful this maddening situation ends the way I expected it to days ago–a win for Dempster and for the Cubs.

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Theo Epstein’s Silence Speaks Volumes For Cubs

By bullpenbrian - July 24, 2012 - 7:01 pm Leave a comment.

The conceivable fallout of the Ryan Dempster trade is a reminder why Theo Epstein prefers to play Cubs business close to the vest.

Since joining the Cubs, Epstein has instilled an identical bunker-mentality he used to combat the obsessive and baseball crazed market that is Boston.

He says very little, if anything, and let’s his actions do the talking for him. Jed Hoyer, same thing, and so on for the rest of the Cubs front office.

The Cubs firewall has become a sore spot with some local beat writers and reporters who rely on communication with the front office to report stories of substance, and most importantly, credibility, to their readers.

What Epstein’s approach hasn’t done, however, is jeopardized a potential trade the likes of Dempster who’s smarting over the fact ‘sources’ in Atlanta (not Chicago) leaked the framework of a potential trade for the 35-year-old yesterday morning.

The Cubs, of course, are not to be at fault for Dempster’s uneasiness with approving the trade. Team Theo, as I see it, are only guilty of working a deal–and a darn good one at that–to trade Dempster to a team Ryan agreed to be traded to, no less.

But the damage has been done, whether Dempster accepts the deal to Atlanta or not. What little information the Cubs front office has provided the media this season is likely to become a dead-end street, at least until the trade speculation passes in favor of September call-ups. There’s simply too much at risk between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to let either speculative or pending information slip outside the walls of the Cubs front office.

The Dempster drama is an unfortunate spot for all parties: Atlanta, Chicago & Dempster. No side is truly at fault, Atlanta certainly didn’t want the deal to fall through and Dempster has fairly earned the right to nix any deal. But as Len Kasper notably pointed out during Monday’s broadcast “It’s the world we live in.”

What’s transpired around the Dempster trade speculation should serve as an embarrassing reminder to both the media and baseball’s organizations that communication is best when it’s a two-way street.

When it’s not, inaccurate stories leak, players get angry and trades collapse. None of which is good for baseball, the media or the fans.

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Why Braves Need Ryan Dempster

By bullpenbrian - July 24, 2012 - 4:46 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs & Braves await the approval of Ryan Dempster to complete a trade that sends top-pitching prospect Randall Delgado to Chicago in exchange for the 35-yr-old right-hander, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

It’s no lock Dempster will approve the deal, as we found out Monday, and is listed as a 50-50 chance by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

I’m fully aware I’m putting the cart before the horse, but let’s take a look at how Dempster could greatly improve Atlanta’s rotation, assuming he approves the trade.

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Dempster Trade on Hold, Garza On Deck

By bullpenbrian - July 23, 2012 - 4:05 pm Leave a comment.

Now this…Dempster Tweets trade to Braves not a done deal, yet. What a headache.

Finally, yes, FINALLY…we have a real Cubs trade to talk about!

WAITING GAME – IF DEAL GOES THROUGH CONTINUE BELOW

Ryan Dempster to the Braves for 22-yr-old RHP Randall Delgado. Nice!

Good deal for Dempster. He rejoins the pennant race on a team hungry to reach October.

Atlanta is playing with urgency. It’s Chipper’s last year and these guys won’t want to repeat the disappointment of last season’s historical September collapse.

The Braves (52-43) trail NL East leading Washington by 3.5 games, but currently hold one of the two NL Wild Card spots.

I couldn’t be happier for Dempster. He’s a winning player who deserves a winning team. This might be his last shot at a ring, not to mention, the city of Atlanta will love Dempster’s southern gentlemanly qualities.

I’ll take a look at how Dempster fits into the Braves rotation a bit later.

GARZA A DODGER BY DAY’S END?

Meanwhile, the Dodgers remain interested in acquiring Matt Garza. The Cubs reportedly want the highly-regarded pitching prospect Zach Lee in return.

It appears any deal will include a package of players being swapped both ways.

Pitchers are headlining the trade reports, but make no mistake, Los Angeles is starved for run producers. My guess says the hold-up is position players being squabbled over.

July 19: Los Angeles ranks 14/16 in runs scored in the National League. They’ve played the most one-runs games in the majors this season (36) and are certain to fall out of the race unless they find offensive help, particularly at first base where James Loney is batting a paltry .245 with 2 HR, 25 RBI.

Bryan LaHair and Darwin Barney could be potential fits in LA, which desperately needs offensive upgrades at first base and shortstop.

Dempster was long expected to be the first Cubs trade domino to fall. A Garza deal could come to fruition by the end of the day. More trades are sure to follow.

At last, the best part of rebuilding is underway. Staying tuned…

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Cubs Taking Offers And Risks On Ryan Dempster

By bullpenbrian - July 21, 2012 - 3:00 pm Leave a comment.

It feels like the Dodgers called the Cubs bluff on Friday.

Seemingly unwilling to come off the pitching prospects Team Theo wanted in return for Ryan Dempster, Los Angeles stood firm and didn’t budge.

By most reports it’s evident Dempster’s first choice is to join LA, and with the two clubs swapping offer sheets, it’s clear the Dodgers have what the Cubs want–young, talented pitching prospects.

Apparently, neither side wanted it enough to make a deal happen, and the Dodgers are now reportedly out of the hunt for Dempster.

What I don’t understand, however, is why the Cubs let Dempster toe the rubber in St. Louis last night?

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