The Chicago Cubs and Ryan Dempster agreed to a 4-year, $52 million deal on Tuesday. The deal includes a $4 million signing bonus and a player option for Dempster for $14 million for the 2012 season. Ryan Dempster will get to stay with a team he loves and a city that he learned to call his own. He lives in Wrigleyville right near Wrigley Field and is often seen on his bike riding to the stadium for games.
Dempster worked hard during the off-season preceding the 2008 MLB season to get back into “starting pitcher” shape after being the Cubs closer from 2005 through 2007, during which he saved 85 games. All his hard work paid off in a big way, as Dempster emerged as the Cubs’ most consistent pitcher throughout the long season. Dempster finished the year with an impressive 17-6 record. His sparkling 2.96 ERA kept his team in many games during the MLB grind, and he finished in the top 7 in the NL in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Dempster was also named to the 2008 All-Star Game for the first time since 2000 when he won 14 games as a starter for the Florida Marlins.
Most importantly, Dempster was the anchor of a Cubs’ pitching staff that had the 3rd best ERA (3.87) in the National League. With Zambrano and newly acquired starter Rich Harden occasionally needing some extra rest during the long season, Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis were reliable, dependable starters who never missed a start. By keeping Dempster in house, the Cubs are all set to begin the 2009 season with the same starting rotation – Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden and Marquis. Cubs GM Jim Hendry is still exploring options for another 5th starter – Jake Peavy or Randy Johnson – which would likely mean the departure of Jason Marquis. It’s always good to have excellent and reliable starting pitching depth, something Hendry and the Cubs have learned all too well in recent years while patiently waiting for stars like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to overcome their various arm injuries.
The Dempster signing is a good signing for all of the above reasons. Plus, he is a great clubhouse guy – he always kept the mood light with his practical jokes and was someone that the younger players looked up to. That being said, I was a little taken aback by his statements in his press conference that maybe the team underestimated how much they had to be prepared to take on the Dodgers in the divisional round of the playoffs a month ago. Dempster almost made it sound like that because the Cubs had home field advantage, they would automatically go up 2-0 and then finish it off in L.A. Given the Cubs 100-year World Series drought, the Diamondbacks sweep of the Cubs in the 1st round of the 2007 playoffs, and the fact that Dempster has been a Cubs player for 4 years and knows all about the anguish that Cubs players and fans have endured over the years, you would think Dempster and his teammates would know that you cannot take anything for granted. If they really did take things too lightly this past October, then we can only hope that the Cubs somehow make the post-season for a 3rd consecutive season next year so that they can re-dress that wrong in the Fall Classic in October 2009.