The Chicago Cubs are running out of desirable choices as they seek to move right-hander Ryan Dempster.
The team had a trade in place to send Dempster to the Atlanta Braves, but the pitcher does not want to go to Atlanta, according to major-league sources — and, as a player with 10 years of service, the last five with the same team, he has the right to reject any deal.
Dempster’s preference is the Los Angeles Dodgers, sources say, but the Cubs and Dodgers have been unable to settle a trade.
The Cubs’ only other option is to keep Dempster for the rest of the season and then make him a one-year offer for around $12 million to qualify for draft-pick compensation if he leaves as a free agent.
But even that possibility comes with a trap door.
Dempster, 35, could accept the Cubs’ offer, sticking the team with a $12 million veteran at a time when it is trying to assemble as many young pieces as possible.
For that reason, one rival executive says there is “no way” that the Cubs would make such an offer. Under the new collective-bargaining agreement, they would receive only one draft pick. That pick would be a supplemental choice between the first and second rounds.
So, the upside to making such an offer isn’t as significant as it was under the old CBA, when a team could collect two draft picks by offering salary arbitration to a free agent who subsequently departs.
What’s more, the attachment of a draft pick to Dempster would make it more difficult for him to get a suitable deal on the free-agent market, increasing the chances that he would choose to stay with the Cubs. The team could threaten to use him out of the bullpen, but such a move would appear petty and self-defeating.
So, the waiting game continues.
Dempster next is scheduled to pitch Monday in Pittsburgh. The non-waiver deadline is 4 p.m. ET. Tuesday.
Braves general manager Frank Wren has said that he has “moved on” from Dempster and that a trade is “highly unlikely.”
The Dodgers, too, are exploring trades for other starting pitchers — and if they acquire one, the Cubs would be left without a trade partner for Dempster.
— Ken Rosenthal