At the end of what became a three-team chase of Ryan Dempster, the Texas Rangers outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees to acquire the longtime Chicago Cubs right-hander at Tuesday's non-waiver trading deadline.
While the rebuilding Cubs were unable to move starter Matt Garza or outfielder Alfonso Soriano, they did trade four players near the deadline in return for five prospects. Soriano, in particular, likely would clear waivers in August, and therefore is still in play. The Cubs had hoped Garza would bring a greater return than Dempster did – two A-ball prospects from the Rangers – but the high asking price and a recent triceps ailment soured negotiations with several clubs.
After a week of talks between the Dodgers and Cubs, the Dodgers withdrew about 10 minutes before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. That left the Yankees, who, according to a source, did not believe they were within striking distance of a deal, and the Rangers, who engaged the Cubs on both Dempster and Garza.
As a player with 10 years of big-league service and the last five with the same team, Dempster had to approve the trade. Dempster so preferred the Dodgers he vetoed a proposed trade to the Atlanta Braves last week. He relented Tuesday in order to join the Rangers, who lead the AL West by 3½ games over the Oakland Athletics and four over the Los Angeles Angels, but have had their starting rotation thinned by injury.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters in Chicago, "[Dempster] held pretty firm on the Dodger thing. … We had to scramble at the end to get a deal."
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As often happens near the end of July, the deadline brought a collision of franchises otherwise bound in opposing directions. The Cubs sought to clear out high-priced veterans in exchange for young, controllable players. At a time when bonuses are capped or taxed for drafted and international players, the Cubs generally were willing to cover the salaries of departing players in return for better prospects.
By the end of Tuesday, they had traded Dempster to the Rangers for two prospects, catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers for one prospect, and left-hander Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves for two prospects.
Conversely, the Rangers, dealing from one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, needed to fortify their big-league rotation in order to continue their run of back-to-back AL pennants. Colby Lewis, their opening day starter, made one start after June 23 and has been lost for the season because of an elbow injury. Neftali Feliz, their former closer who had transitioned into the starting rotation, will undergo Tommy John surgery and will not pitch until next summer. Veteran Roy Oswalt has a 6.49 ERA after six starts and is headed to the bullpen.
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Previous pennant runs had relied heavily on the arms of Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, and Lewis. Lee is in Philadelphia, Wilson in Anaheim, Lewis on the disabled list. Now, in a month they are 9-13, and after an Oswalt start against the Angels in which they lost 15-8, the Rangers advance on the final two months with a rotation of Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Dempster.
At the time of the trade, Dempster, at 35, was second in the National League with a 2.25 ERA, more than two runs lower than his career ERA. He is scheduled to start Thursday against the Angels.
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