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Numbers Game: Rangers reel in Dempster

Scott Cullen
7/31/2012 5:04:11 PM
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A Canadian righthander was one of baseball's most sought-after pitchers approaching the trade deadline and he was added by a contender that needed to improve its rotation.

Numbers Game breaks down the Ryan Dempster deal.

The Rangers Get; RHP Ryan Dempster.

Dempster, 35, was a prize pitcher for contenders going into the stretch drive, with the Braves, Dodgers, and Yankees (at least) among the teams rumoured to be interested in his services before he was acquired by Texas.

After struggling last season, posting a 4.80 ERA, Dempster has rebounded with perhaps the best season of his career. He has a 5-5 record, but his 2.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP are both career-bests. Naturally, putting up those numbers has been a result of some good luck as Dempster has a career-low .242 batting average on balls in play against. Having that BABIP despite a career-high 24.4% line drive rate (www.fangraphs.com) does suggest that he's due for some regression.

In his mid-30s, Dempster has lost some velocity as, according to Fan Graphs, his average fastball has fallen under 90 MPH for the first time in his career. As a result, Dempster throws his slider more often, but it's been a very effective mix this season.

A 15-year National League performer, Dempster faces a challenge moving to the American League. In 50 career Interleague starts, Dempster is 11-15 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Strangely enough, Dempster has faced the Rangers for one inning in his entire career, striking out all three batters he faced (Frank Catalanotto, Gerald Laird and Brad Wilkerson) to preserve a 2007 win for the Cubs, back when Dempster was in the closer's role.

In his only career postseason start, against the Dodgers in 2008, Dempster walked seven and allowed four earned runs in four and two-thirds innings. 

Texas' rotation was desperate for an upgrade. Injuries to Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis thinned out their Opening Day rotation and midseason signing Roy Oswalt has struggled, so the Rangers have to feel more comfortable heading down the stretch and into the playoffs with another established veteran starter in the fold.

Dempster, who is making $14-million this season, will be a free agent at season's end.

The Cubs Get: 3B Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks

Villanueva is a 21-year-old third baseman who has 10 home runs, 59 RBI, a .285 batting average and .777 OPS in 100 games at Advanced A-ball. He's likely a couple of years away, but plays a position of need for the Cubs, so if he can continue to hit with power and improve his discipline as he climbs through the organization, he has a chance to be an everyday player for Chicago.

A 22-year-old righthander who is Villanueva's teammate in Myrtle Beach this season, Hendricks has started 20 games, posting a 5-8 record with a 2.82 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, with 112 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings.

Adding a cut fastball to his repertoire this season has enhanced his development and gives him a better chance to make it as a starter when he's ready for the majors. Like Villanueva, that's still a couple of years away, but Hendricks is a solid, if not spectacular, prospect.

In the short term, the Cubs are left with a patchwork rotation, having dealt Dempster and Paul Maholm (to Atlanta) while Matt Garza is dealing with a triceps injury. That leaves Jeff Samardzija as the de facto ace of the staff (until Garza returns), followed by Travis Wood, Chris Volstad and Justin Germano. It's been a lost season for the Cubs already, but the next couple months could be even tougher with that mess of a rotation left behind.



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