Chicago Cubs

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.

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Theo Epstein’s embrace-debate management style means the Cubs are constantly running through different scenarios, trying to balance their win-now urges against what should be a very bright future in Wrigleyville.

The financials, the human intelligence and the analytics are all factored into the equation, which leads to this question for Epstein’s cabinet: Is there a point where the Detroit Tigers kick in enough money and the prospect cost becomes so low that Justin Verlander makes sense for the Cubs?

The Cubs haven’t definitively answered that question yet or completely ruled out the idea, a team source said Tuesday, cautioning that the defending World Series champs are still more likely to add a reliever before the July 31 trade deadline than acquire a frontline starting pitcher.

“Always looking to make the team better,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 7-2 win over the White Sox kept the Cubs in a virtual first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. “Always. That’s what a GM and a president does. But I like our guys.”  

Verlander would obviously benefit from a move to the National League and feel energized in a pennant race. The Cubs could rationalize this as an immediate boost and a long-range solution while preparing for a 2018 rotation without Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.

Imagine the buzz from Kate Upton’s fiancée walking into the clubhouse and making his first start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. Verlander and Upton have been spotted enough times at Chicago Cut Steakhouse that his no-trade power might be the easiest hurdle to clear in a deal of this magnitude.

Verlander’s overall numbers are ordinary this season (5-7, 4.50 ERA, 1.444 WHIP), but trending in the right direction. The Cubs would go into it knowing that they wouldn’t get the same guy who won 24 games and American League MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011.

The Tigers also can’t just give away a franchise icon who finished second in last year’s AL Cy Young voting and has a 3.39 ERA in 16 career playoff starts

The Cubs are trying to see around corners and anticipate what the team will look like in 2018 and 2019 – when Verlander will make $28 million guaranteed each season – and what might be available in trades and on the free-agent market during those transaction cycles. Verlander is also owed the balance of his $28 million salary this season and has a $22 million vesting option for 2020.

Even if the Tigers pay down some of that commitment, that’s still a ton of exposure with a guy who has roughly 2,500 innings on his odometer and will be 35 years old around the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training next season. That’s also when the Cubs will begin the second half of Jon Lester’s $155 million megadeal – for his age-34, -35 and -36 seasons.

After stunning the baseball world with that blockbuster White Sox trade during the All-Star break, Epstein talked about how Jose Quintana’s reasonable contract – $8.85 million next season plus team options for 2019 and 2020 worth $22 million combined – creates room for another star player.

As great as Verlander has been throughout his career, are the Cubs really ready to pour that money back into a player who was born in 1983? And meet Detroit’s asking price in terms of prospects?

And go against the buy-low philosophy that attracted the Cubs to Arrieta, as well as the ageism that makes them reluctant to reinvest in their own Cy Young Award winner? And potentially close off opportunities to sign free agents from the monster class coming after the 2018 season?

Probably not, but the Cubs haven’t shut down the Verlander discussion yet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Jordan Bernfield (ESPN) and Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap to talk Game 2 of the Crosstown Series.

Later, the group previews Bears camp and what's going on with the Cavaliers.

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: