July 31, 2012
Dempster Doesn't Turn Blind Eye to Texas
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
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. Follow @cwyers