Theo: Dempster not the villain in trade drama

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Theo: Dempster not the villain in trade drama

After playing here for almost nine years, Ryan Dempsters legacy should be secure. But the ending bothered a certain segment of Cubs fans.
Dempster took heat for the trade that never happened, a potential deal with the Atlanta Braves that would have netted Randall Delgado, a 22-year-old right-hander who could have slid right into the Cubs rotation.
Dempster weighed his 10-and-5 no-trade rights and wasnt ready to commit last week. He held out hopes for the Los Angeles Dodgers, right up to Tuesdays non-waiver trade deadline, and wound up with the Texas Rangers.
The morning after, Theo Epstein tried to defuse any tension between a fan favorite and a new front office that tries to remove emotion from the equation. The team president wouldnt cast Dempster as the villain in this trade drama.
I dont think Ryan deserves any criticism, Epstein said Wednesday. Its not fair for anyone to criticize Ryan unless theyve been in that spot. Its a right that hes earned.
Do we wish that he would have had 12 places that were an ideal destination for him instead of one? Sure. That Atlanta deal that we had lined up I thought was an outstanding deal for the organization. Would we have liked to have executed it? Absolutely.
But in the end, my thoughts in his situation might have been exactly the same: Theres one spot I really want to go that makes sense for me for my own personal reasons, and Im not going to accept a trade anywhere else until I see if that deal can happen.
Atlanta fit Dempsters criteria: Contender, pitchers park, National League, plus his relationship with general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez because of their ties to the old Florida Marlins organization.
Epstein graduated from Yale University and earned his law degree from the University of San Diego. Epstein sounded like a lawyer poking holes in Dempsters contention that he never turned down the Braves deal.
We had a deal in place he didnt approve, Epstein said. He didnt say no. He said not now. He didnt technically say no.
He said: No, Im not going to go to Atlanta until I see about L.A. And then Atlanta very reasonably didnt want to wait around and risk not getting a pitcher.
He had a clear No. 1, which is his right, and he wanted to see that through. I dont hold that against him.
Epstein presented a timeline in which he gave Dempster advance notice two or three days before it leaked to the media that the Braves were pushing hard for a deal and the Dodgers werent showing much interest.
Epstein said he gave Dempster a heads-up before the story spread like wildfire on Twitter.
Ryan never got the opportunity for more than Id say an hour to fully contemplate Atlanta with a deal actually in place, Epstein said. I feel for him, because then all of a sudden instead of having time to contemplate it privately, he had everyone telling him what to do, everyone asking questions about it and it became a nuisance for him.
Its really hard to criticize Ryan. I think its unfortunate. But he clearly wasnt blindsided because wed been telling him for days that Atlanta was a very likely destination and pretty soon we were going to have (to) make a final decision.
Dempster, who had to deal with all the reporters by his locker, didnt seem to remember it exactly this way. Epstein remained underground and didnt tell his side of the story until after the deadline.
In the end, the no-trade rights brokered a compromise, Dempster getting the chance to win a World Series and another big contract, and the Cubs getting two prospects from Single-A Myrtle Beach, right-hander Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva.
It created a market of one, up until about 15 minutes to go in the process, Epstein said. It effected our ability to maximize our return, but it didnt stop us in the end from making a very productive trade for the organization taking two months of a very good veteran pitcher and turning it into the entire careers of two guys that our scouts really liked.

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

The Cubs are reportedly on the verge of adding another pitcher who’s notched the final out of a World Series as Theo Epstein’s front office builds out the bullpen for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are nearing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Koji Uehara, according to Nikkan Sports in Japan, which would open up even more possibilities for the defending champs in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis.

The Cubs made their biggest splash during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland by trading young outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis, who finished off Game 5 in the 2015 World Series.

Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the beginning of three straight seasons where he put up 20-plus saves. The Cubs have not confirmed an agreement is in place.

The Cubs needed another lefty presence with Mike Montgomery – the pitcher on the mound when the 108-year drought ended in November – moving to the rotation and Travis Wood likely leaving as a free agent.

Uehara throws right-handed, but he shuts down left-handed hitters (.183 batting average, .555 OPS across 800 at-bats) and has appeared in seven postseason series after a distinguished career in Japan.

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Uehara will turn 42 the day after Opening Day. But an array of relievers should help preserve Uehara, strengthen Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s generously listed at 170 pounds) and maybe prevent the late-season injuries that marginalized Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the playoffs.

“We’re going to try to build up a ton of depth,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try to build up a really talented, deep bullpen with a lot of different options that you can use in close games.

“Instead of three late-game options, it would be ideal if you had five or six. And you could always like who you’re turning to in the ‘pen and not feel the need to use a Rondon four out of five times.

“(We could) use them every other day and occasional back-to-backs. And that would help keep them fresh down the stretch – and help keep them strong in October.”