Ryan Dempster’s trade value gets hazy as Cubs stick him on DL
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 18, 2012 9:46PM
Ryan Dempster of the Cubs pitches in the second inning at Wrigley Field Wednesday, May 30, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:28AM
Talk about taking the trade winds out of the Cubs’ sails.
Ryan Dempster, maybe the hottest pitcher in the majors and definitely the top pitcher available in the early trade market, was put on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of tightness in the latissimus dorsi muscle just below his right shoulder blade.
The Cubs say they have no timetable for the return of the pitcher who owns three of their four victories this month and a 22-inning scoreless streak despite pitching through increasing tightness the last three starts.
‘‘We’re going to play it conservatively,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘As well as he’s throwing, we want to nip this in the bud to make sure it doesn’t turn into a strain or anything like that.’’
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have made no secret of their plan to be active shoppers leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. This season might be especially strong for early sellers considering how general parity and an extra wild-card playoff berth in each league have juiced potential demand.
Several officials from rival teams said before Dempster’s injury that they anticipated a possible quick strike by potential contenders pursuing him. He has the second-best ERA (2.11) in the National League.
But the Cubs have a long list of other players they’re letting teams know are available, including Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza, though one front-office member of a potential buyer said the message on Garza is, ‘‘Bring your firstborn to the table.’’
Even the players know that a team already in transition is on the brink of a lot more changes in the coming weeks.
‘‘Oh, yeah,’’ said Marmol, whose return to the closer’s role over the weekend could signal a push to raise his trade value. He earned his first save in more than a month Friday despite loading the bases.
Marmol, who has about $14 million left on a contract that runs through next year, said neither he nor his agent have been told anything specific by the Cubs or whether his return to closing means anything related to trade intentions.
But he added, ‘‘I believe I heard somebody say that Theo Epstein says he’s going to trade a lot of veteran guys. I’m not sure if that’s true or not.’’
Marmol, 29, smiled when asked if he’s a veteran or a young guy.
‘‘You tell me,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m a young guy.’’
He added, ‘‘I’ll do whatever they ask me to do right now. That’s the only thing I can control.’’
That’s more than Dempster can control for the next two weeks.
He said he won’t throw for at least another few days but didn’t seem to anticipate a long DL stay.
‘‘It’s gotten better the last couple days, which is a nice sign, that’s it’s loosening up,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll just get it back and get it ready.’’
He won’t be eligible to return from the DL until July 1 and would have only two potential starts before the All-Star break to prove his fitness, pushing a potential trade closer to the deadline.
‘‘Generally when players have minor injuries, it’s typical to wait until they come back and re-establish health before engaging in any serious trade talks,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘That’s the fair thing to do.’’
Left-hander Scott Maine was recalled from Class AAA Iowa to join the bullpen, taking Dempster’s roster spot. Randy Wells (1-1 4.50 ERA) moves to rejoin the rotation in Dempster’s place, starting Wednesday against the White Sox.