CHICAGO — Ryan Dempster sat in the Cubs’ offices as the 3 p.m. CDT trade deadline neared Tuesday, playing Golden Tee and watching the rumors about his fate played out on the MLB Network.
With 4 minutes, 53 seconds on the countdown ticker, according to Dempster’s estimation, he approved a trade to the Rangers for a pair of low-level prospects.
Thus ended Dempster’s memorable nine-year run in Chicago, a bizarre final week capped after he said no to a trade to the Braves after it already was agreed upon, threw a temper tantrum in the dugout after being removed from a game and watched his dream of joining buddy Ted Lilly on the Dodgers go down the tubes.
In the end, it was down to the Yankees and Rangers, though general manager Jed Hoyer said the Cubs would have kept Dempster if the Rangers deal fell through.
“Yeah, I thought it was a possibility for either team so there are a lot of emotions,” Dempster said. “I thought it was going to be the Dodgers. I thought it was going to be the Yankees. I thought it was going to be this, that and the other.
“In the end it ended up being Texas and I’m super excited. They’ve been in the World Series two years in a row and they have a great team. Hopefully I can go over there and be a little piece of the really good puzzle they have going.”
Instead of receiving a major league-ready starter in the Braves’ Randall Delgado, who was part of the original trade Dempster nixed, the Cubs got 22-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks and 21-year-old third baseman Christian Villanueva, both of whom played at Class-A Myrtle Beach.
It likely will be years before either proves he’s capable of making it to the majors. But after losing leverage because of Dempster’s deep desire to go to the Dodgers, it was about as good a deal as the Cubs could muster.
“He held pretty firm on the Dodgers thing,” Hoyer said. “I was actually really glad he was in our office for the last couple of hours and he was able to sort of see how we work and see what happens. He sat in an office and watched himself on TV. Then we briefed him on where we were and I don’t remember exactly what time but at some point he said ‘OK, if this Dodgers thing isn’t going to work, then he was willing to open it up to a handful of teams.’
“That’s why it came together late. We talked to teams a little bit but we weren’t going to spend tons of time and lead teams down a road that wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t want to do that. We had to not scramble but work pretty hard at the end to find a suitable deal for him.”
That turned out to be the only deal Cubs President Theo Epstein and Hoyer made Tuesday after they had traded Geovany Soto to the Rangers and Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves on Monday night.
Matt Garza’s triceps cramping hurt his market value, Hoyer said, and the Alfonso Soriano rumors never really gathered steam.
The ending of Dempster’s stay in Chicago was much stormier than the previous eight years, mostly because of the botched trade to the Braves.
“I just never said no to anybody,” he said. “Well I did say no to some places obviously, but I just said if something that came that was a trade for the club that helped the club that was something I was willing to do and had time to think about it. … Obviously the past few days I had to give a lot more thought to what teams might possibly be there so that I’d be prepared to make that decision.”
In hindsight, was Dempster glad he turned down a chance to go to the Braves?
“We’ll see,” he said. “There’s no right or wrong decision. There are just journeys in life that we’re going to end up taking and you have to make the most out of those. (The Braves) have a great ballclub down there. They just got two really good baseball players, good pitcher and good outfielder in Reed and Paul and they’re going to be a tough ballclub too. This is just the right decision for me.”