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July 31, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Dempster Doesn't Turn Blind Eye to Texas

by Colin Wyers and Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquire RHP Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for 3B-R Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks. [7/31]

Texas still holds the lead in the AL West, but with some activity from the Angels earlier in the week and some disturbing developments in their own rotation, this was a move the Rangers were under considerable pressure to make. Yu Darvish should be fine at the front of the staff, but the dual losses of Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz to Tommy John surgery made the Rangers' rotation vulnerable. It seems unlikely that Matt Harrison will continue his success as a starting pitcher, and Derek Holland and Scott Feldman have been uninspiring so far this year. As a result, it won’t be too difficult for the Rangers to make room for Dempster.

It also keeps Dempster out of the Yankees' hands; at one point, New York was rumored to have actually acquired the pitcher. Division leads might have played a small part in the decision to trade for a rotation upgrade.

Right now, this is strictly a rental for the Rangers; Dempster is eligible for free agency after the season. And with a deal this close to the trade deadline, there wouldn’t have been any way to get a window to talk to the pitcher about a possible extension. But the Rangers have the means to make an attractive offer to Dempster if they wish to retain him after the season. He has been pitching out of his mind this season, but nothing about his performance screams “sustainable,” given a .244 BABIP. Still, even before this year, he’d managed to transform himself from a journeyman and reliever to an above-average starter who can give you 200 innings in a season. Teams always have a use for pitchers like that, so he’ll likely be looking at a handsome reward on the free-agent market if the Rangers don’t offer him enough to stick around.

The Cubs have to be relieved to have dealt one of their two big trading chips, after famously whiffing on a deal to send Dempster to the Braves. This is the second deadline deal between the Rangers for the Cubs, who sent Dempster's batterymate, Geovany Soto, to Texas last night. —Colin Wyers

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquire 3B-R Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks from the Texas Rangers for RHP Ryan Dempster. [7/31]

Signed out of Mexico in 2008, the 21-year-old Villanueva is one of those players whose greatest strength might be a lack of weaknesses. He has a good idea at the plate and a quick bat; he uses all fields and projects as a .280 hitter in the big leagues. He has gap power now, and scouts believe that will turn into solid average power down the road as he fills out, with 15-20 home run potential. He's a good athlete and an average runner, and an easy plus defender with a strong arm. He's a bit on the small side at 5-foot-11, which hurts his projection, but he looks like he should be a solid-average everyday third baseman if his development stays on track.

An eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Dartmouth, Hendricks has had a successful full-season debut, with a 2.82 ERA and a remarkable 112-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130.2 innings for High-A Myrtle Beach. Based on those numbers, it's no surprise that some feel he has the best control in the system. That's also his best asset, as his below-average fastball sits at 86-90 mph with a bit of life, and his arsenal is no more than average across the board. He succeeds by throwing strikes and changing speeds, and it will be a challenge for him to find the same success at the upper levels while lacking an out pitch. —Kevin Goldstein

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

21 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BillFisher

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Colby Lewis will make zero contribution to the Rangers in this season's playoffs. What with the arm surgery and all. So maybe this is a move that the Rangers needed to make.

Jul 31, 2012 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
This guy

Colby Lewis is out for the season after elbow surgery.

Jul 31, 2012 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

ditto neftali

Jul 31, 2012 14:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Yes, just updated this to reflect that.

Jul 31, 2012 14:46 PM
 
Scherer

Is Villanueva really a better prospect than what the Cubs could have drafted with a compensation pick? This trade seems very uninspiring.

Jul 31, 2012 14:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Cubs also save quite a few million.

Jul 31, 2012 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Scherer

About $4.7 million (presumably), which doesn't buy much. Ok, I'll restate the question: is Villanueva + $4.7M better than the alternative?

Jul 31, 2012 16:50 PM
rating: 0
 
UrbyJT

Dempster might have accepted the offer, which is what probably worried FO.

Jul 31, 2012 15:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Scherer

That is not a worry; you then have the same player under control with the same trade value (holding actual performance constant), and for a lot less money. There was no reason to trade Dempster for less than the compensation pick. The only question is whether or not they did.

Jul 31, 2012 16:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Except Dempster is getting older so he's more likely to be hurt next year in which case the Cubs won't be able to give another qualifying offer.

He's at the peak of his value right now, the Cubs get two prospects and some cash. It's a pretty decent deal given the constraints the Cubs had to work with.

Jul 31, 2012 16:46 PM
rating: 2
 
Scherer

You assume that Dempster is at peak value; in reality, you have no idea what his value will be in the off-season, next June, etc. Neither of us knows what his performance will be over the next two months.

And you are missing the broader point; Dempster is not accepting a one-year qualifying offer (in the absence of a serious injury over the next two months). His actual value is only relevant if he accepts a one-year qualifying offer, which he assuredly will not. If he does, the Cubs have chalked up a huge win.

Again, the value question here is Dempster + (salary) + sandwich pick versus Villanueva.

Jul 31, 2012 17:02 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Yes, I tend to assume that 35 year old pitchers are not likely to pitch better when they are 36 years old (unless they are knuckleballers). Am I 100% positive? No, but I'd say with 95% confidence that Dempster's performance will never look better than it does today. Sure, clubs don't look at things like FIP etc, but his ERA indicates he's better than he really is.

Dempster obviously would like to stay in Chicago which is why he utilized his 10-5 rights. Thus, I think the chances of him accepting a qualifying offer, even if it's below his market value, are quite high. So, fast forward a year and the Cubs again want to trade him at the deadline. If he's lucky enough to be unhurt, he definitely won't have a nice-looking 2.25 ERA, his perceived value would go down and he'd be less likely to warrant the kind of return the Cubs got for them. In addition, he'd be even more likely to accept the Cubs 2014 qualifying offer, which means the Cubs would have to let him walk without any kind of compensation.


As far as sandwich picks go versus Villanueva, he's already had some minor league success and he projects as a major league average third baseman, if not a tick better. That's more value than a lot of second round picks.

Jul 31, 2012 17:57 PM
rating: 6
 
Scherer

Richard:

I grant you, Dempster's value is unlikely to increase. He is 35, and his ERA is, perhaps, a bit of a fluke. Discounting the really improbable, I still believe he was unlikely to accept arbitration, so the equation is still Dempster vs. sandwich pick (and, yes, more money than I have). You answered that question; you believe Villanueva is at least as good as the pick; that is all I was asking.

(Superfluous side argument: staying in Chicago was clearly not such a priority for Dempster or else he wouldn't be, you know, a Ranger.)

I always enjoy your thoughts, Richard. For the Cubs, let's hope Villanuava has some value.

Aug 01, 2012 15:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Since the trade, he's been quoted as saying he wants to come back as a Cub. He also said he'd been traded twice in the past without any kind of say and at least wanted to exercise his right to think about it. Even then, he had a very narrow range of teams he would accept trades to and not every "winning/contending" team was included in that.

Besides, there is some PR involved. If he refused the Rangers, chances are the Cubs would never take him back and he might generate some ill-will around the league which might hurt his free agent prospects.

I like to think he'll try to re-sign with the Cubs just like he saw Kerry Wood do.

I do enjoy talking with you, as I have in the past whether we agree or disagree. It's nice to see you and others here have an intelligent and civil discussion, even if I find the minusbats a little annoying. I may disagree with what you're saying, but I don't think you deserve minuses.

Aug 01, 2012 19:21 PM
rating: -1
 
sydvicious
(52)

Um, Lewis is undergoing surgery, right? And Feliz now also?

Jul 31, 2012 14:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

I knew Feliz was out when I wrote that (he's omitted from the article), but I missed that Lewis was out long-term. We're reworking the article right now to talk about Lewis's injury.

Jul 31, 2012 14:46 PM
 
Fligah

Colby isn't having TJ, he tore a flexor tendon not an elbow ligament.

Jul 31, 2012 15:02 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Look at the bright side, it was a busy day and it's not like the errors were as bad as CNN and Fox made on the Supreme Court health care decisions.

:)

Jul 31, 2012 15:14 PM
rating: 2
 
jharrison3

So which of the prospects that the Cubs got are in the top 100? I've heard that Vizcaino and Villanueva are in it... this true? Not that if they aren't I think they were bad deals.. Just trying to figure it out.

Jul 31, 2012 17:00 PM
rating: 0
 
briant1
(778)

One scout told one guy on twitter that he might have Villanueva on his top 100, but that's not consensus.

Jul 31, 2012 18:20 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

KG had Villanueva at #7th in the Rangers system in March 2012, though a three star prospect.

Jul 31, 2012 20:00 PM
rating: 0
 
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