The Rise and Fall of the Dempster Trade

The Ryan Dempster saga seems like it has been going on longer than it took for the Ricketts to complete the transaction to acquire the Cubs, but it's all only a little over 24 hours old.

I'll see if I can sum this up as succinctly as I can, though I'm sure I will miss some salient details. As best as I can tell, it all started in earnest when Mark Bowman, the beat writer for the Braves on MLB.com (basically, the Braves' version of Carrie Muskat), tweeted out that the Braves and Cubs had come to an agreement on a deal involving Ryan Dempster and possibly Randall Delgado.

Twitter then went apeshit with speculation about whether Delgado could really be the piece coming back for a 35-year old rental player who is playing out of his ass at the moment.  Various reporters start jumping in that Bowman's story is accurate, though still unclear on the Delgado part. Then Keith Law reported that a story filed to ESPN said if the deal was completed, Delgado would, indeed, be the piece coming to the Cubs.  I don't know what the next level above apeshit is in the Twitter world, but that's what happened next.  If Harry Caray were here, he probably would have exclaimed, "Listen to this crowd!!! They're dancing in the streets of Twitter!"

Then the wheels started coming off.

Dave Kaplan came bursting into the party and told everyone to put the champagne down because the deal was, according to a GREAT SOURCE, not done yet.  People laughed and patted him on the head and continued to talk about how great this trade was for the Cubs. I started worrying that we weren't actually going to get something as good as Delgado after all, and it creeped into my mind that maybe Dempster's acceptance of the deal might not be as much of a foregone conclusion as everyone was making it out to be.

Then the Dempster Family Foundation tweeted out that there was no trade and that they had no idea what anyone was talking about. They also felt the need to enforce the fact that they had not been hacked, since it is every hacker's dream to hack into an account for the express purpose of DENYING trade rumors.

Then Dempster himself arrived to the clubhouse in Pittsburgh and very curtly told reporters he didn't want to discuss any trade rumors and he wanted to prepare to sit on the bench while Samardzija pitched against the Pirates. (He didn't really say that, he said he was preparing to play, but sitting on the bench was pretty much the extent of his involvement in the game). You could tell he was not in a good mood because he didn't do a Harry Caray impression, use a whoopie cushion or anything.

Then when Sveum addressed the media, he didn't want to give any validity to trade rumors from The Twitter and The Facebook, as if it hadn't been an MLB.com beat writer that originally broke the story, with outlets like CBSSports, ESPN, and FOXSports following right behind with verifications.

Now we were starting to get depressed, but we remained hopeful that the deal would get concluded. After all, the Yankees managed a trade for Ichiro (who also had 10/5 rights) without any hassles, so it should all work out for the best, right? RIGHT?!

Then this morning, Jerry Crasnick reported that Dempster was upset that the news broke on the interwebz before he had been told about it and had proper time to work up the perfect Harry Caray impression to hilariously discuss it with reporters. He said he felt blindsided, which is ridiculous considering the atmosphere that has been following the team pretty much since the season started. Pretty much every day, he's probably had at least one reporter ask him about places he might play or if he's heard any rumors about trades that Jed & Theo might be working on. Then suddenly he is shocked when a trade involving him actually comes up?

Typical conversation every day since pitchers and catchers reported in February:

REPORTERS: Hey Demp, hear anything on the trade market? Is this your last start for the Cubs?

DEMPSTER (puts on oversize glasses): Hey Paul, did you know that "Sullivan" backwards is "No comment?"

(Everybody laughs)

Conversation yesterday:

REPORTERS: Hey Demp, did you hear there's a trade in the works with you going to Atlanta?

DEMPSTER: (dramatically whips off oversize glasses) WHAT!!!???? (Faints)

(Everybody laughs)

Granted, it would suck to find out about something like that via Twitter (or Paul Sullivan reading a tweet), so I'll cut him a bit of a break, but that's something where you are momentarily stunned and then you compose yourself. You don't get pissy with the Cubs because they had nothing to do with how this all broke on the internet. Remember, the last story the Chicago media ever broke was publishing Steve Bartman's home address. So I'm not sure where that came from on his part.

It has also been reported that Dempster would prefer to be traded to the Dodgers, presumably to rekindle the bromance with Ted Lilly. So it seems he will not immediately accept the deal with the Braves until all efforts to work a deal with Los Angeles have proven fruitless (and even then, nothing is definite). So that opens up the possibility that the Braves could pull their offer if they want to work on trying to get a guy who actually, you know, wants to be on their team. It lowers the Cubs leverage with the Dodgers since they now know that they are Dempster's preferred destination. At the very least, it opens up the window for more deals like the Tigers/Marlins deal yesterday to eliminate potential trade partners for any of the Cubs' pitchers.

So now everyone is all kinds of pissed off at Dempster. 

But here's the thing, whether we think he's too thin-skinned for being upset about how it all played out, or whether we think he's lame for potentially turning down a perfectly good spot for him to land even if it isn't his top spot, he has the right to do it. He has achieved the status where he can exercize as much power as possible to end up where he wants to be.

The fact that all of this blew up in the public's view is not his problem. The fact that the publicity has tipped the Cubs' hand and lessened the Cubs negotiating ability is not his problem. He is looking out for what is best for his family. Remember, he doesn't actually want to leave Chicago. This isn't a guy itching to get out and then complaining about the destination. If he had his way, he'd stay in Chicago and probably sign another deal in Chicago for three more years.  But he understands the situation and he has opened the possibility that he could go somewhere else if it helps the team. But he didn't promise to leave. He didn't give Theo a list of teams and said, "Trade me to one of these spots." He had a ranking in his mind and the Cubs came to him with the 2nd best offer while there was still a week to go before the trade deadline.

Wouldn't you hold out a little bit to see if something could be worked out to get your top choice before packing your bags for Atlanta's shitty traffic and the tomahawk chop?

But as fans, this has been gut-wrenching because not only did we see a trade dangled before our eyes, but it was a pretty fucking good trade. I know I was shocked to see a piece coming back to Chicago with the quality of Delgado. Remember, I'm the guy who didn't think anyone would offer better than the value of a compensation pick for him. This isn't Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for an old, former decent prospect. This isn't Derrek Lee for a bunch of non-prospects. This was a serious deal that boosted our horribly thin young pitching talent immediately. And now it is slipping away.

So as it all falls apart, it is very easy to get angry about it. Angry at Dempster for not just accepting the trade. Angry at the Cubs for botching what should be something simple like notifying a player that a trade has been worked out. Angry at the media for sniffing around and getting the story. Angry at bloggers and twitterers for spreading around the reports like wildfire.

But there really is nobody to get angry at. The Cubs are doing their best to work out a good deal that Dempster will agree to. Dempster is open to taking his comedy bits on the road if it helps the team when he has no obligation to do so. The media is just doing what it does by trying to break a story first (and it looks like Bowman had it right from the start, so this isn't a matter of first to report trumping first to be correct).  Probably the biggest villain in all of this is whoever over in Atlanta couldn't keep their yap shut when Bowman came asking questions.

Maybe the Sun-Times will publish his home address so we can send a mob after him.

aisle424

About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.

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