Dempster might fit into Cubs’ dynamic in 2015
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter February 17, 2014 9:04PM
Updated: February 18, 2014 2:22AM
Could Ryan Dempster play a role in the Cubs’ rebuilding plans after all? Team officials aren’t ready or able to discuss whether they would be open to a reunion with the veteran pitcher they traded away two summers ago.
But when Dempster left open the possibility of resuming his career after taking this season off — walking away from $13.25 million left on his contract with the Boston Red Sox in the process — it left ajar the intriguing possibility of him becoming a fit next winter for a young Cubs team in need of veteran influence in the clubhouse.
Dempster would have been a free agent anyway, but without pitching this season he has little chance of creating value heading into a 2015 season during which he will turn 38.
Would the draw of returning to the team he never wanted to leave and pitching again in the neighborhood where he keeps a home motivate him to meet the Cubs on their terms on a modest, short-term deal? Maybe in a bullpen or swingman role?
And how attractive would the longtime fan favorite and clubhouse leader be to a team with a handful of pitching prospects expected to start arriving about then?
Dempster’s friend and longtime teammate, Kerry Wood — who holds a front-office position — offered the Cubs’ a discount deal of $1.5 million to return for the 2011 season as a setup man.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer wouldn’t say whether the team would be open to that, especially considering the Red Sox own Dempster’s right by virtue of the two-year deal he signed a year ago.
“It’s totally unfair to speculate on what’s going to happen in the future,” Hoyer said. “Only he knows that. And he’s Red Sox property.
“But certainly we admire what he did for the Cubs for a lot of years, the type of competitor that he is and the type of teammate that he is. I’m glad we got to know him for four months.”
Dempster approached the team informally after the 2012 season about the possibility of returning before getting his big deal with the Red Sox.
“Certainly, Ryan’s had a significant impact on a number of teams’ clubhouses over the years,” Hoyer said, “but it feels inappropriate to comment at all about his future, given the fact that he just walked away and given the fact that he’s still a Red Sox.”