MIAMI – The Braves had a trade in place for veteran Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster on Monday, but are waiting for the major league ERA leader to approve the deal.
Dempster told the Cubs last week that he was open to a trade to one of several teams pursuing him, and the Braves were reportedly second on his preferred list behind the Dodgers. The Dodgers wouldn’t trade a prized prospect the Cubs wanted in a proposed deal.
When several media outlets reported a Braves-Cubs trade for Dempster was done Monday, Dempster and Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the reports were innacurate. The pitcher didn’t elaborate on whether there was no deal in place or just that he’d not approved of it yet, but ESPN.com reported that he felt “blindsided” after news of the deal got leaked.
It was also reported that Braves rookie right-hander Randall Delgado was in the trade, although neither team would confirm.
Dempster has trade-veto rights as a 10-and-5 player — a veteran with at least 10 years of major league service including five or more with his current team. As of late Monday night, it was believed the Braves and Cubs were still waiting for him to approve the deal.
“I know what you know — maybe a little bit more; I’m not going to lie to you guys” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Monday night’s game against the Marlins. “We’re in a holding pattern.”
A person familiar with negotiations said Monday afternoon he thought the deal was done and was surprised it had not been announced.
Dempster, 35, is 5-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 15 starts. He’s making $14 million in the final season of a four-year, $52 million contract, and is eligible for free agency after the season. The Cubs would likely pay a portion of the approximate $5.5 million he’s owed for the rest of the season.
His last start for the Cubs was Friday, when Dempster gave up four runs in six innings of a loss to St. Louis to snap a five-start winning streak in which he allowed 22 hits in 33 scoreless innings.
Gonzalez was asked if he thought one starter could make a major difference for the Braves, whose starters had a 4.43 ERA that ranked 14th in the National League before Monday, ahead of only a pair of last-place teams, the Astros and Rockies.
“Well, if that does happen, [Dempster] and Sheets, that’s two starters, which would be a big plus,’ Gonzalez said. “And I think going forward, you need to match up pitching-wise. You don’t have to score eight runs offensively, but you need to be able to match up pitching-wise. But again, we don’t know about Dempster as of 5 o’clock on Monday. We’ll see how that materializes.”
Dempster has allowed one or no runs in 10 of his 15 starts, and the Cubs scored one or no runs while he was in six games including all four of his losses. He has a career-best 1.051 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and ranked third in the NL with a .209 opponents’ average and second with a .265 opponents’ on-base percentage.
If the Braves got him, Dempster could replace Jair Jurrjens, whose struggles continued when he gave up six runs in 2-1/3 innings of Sunday’s 9-2 loss at Washington. Jurrjens has a 7.04 ERA and .350 opponents’ average in 10 starts this season.
Jurrjens has allowed 17 hits and 14 runs in 5-2/3 innings of two starts since the All-Star break. Braves rookie left-hander Mike Minor has been erratic, with a 5-6 record and 5.69 ERA entering his Monday start against the Marlins at Miami. But Minor made progress in recent weeks.
“We’ve struggled with our consistency because we’ve struggled at the end of our rotation, and you saw it today,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s a little demoralizing when you’re in a dogfight for the division and you’re constantly fighting from behind.”
Dempster has a 117-120 career record with 87 saves and a 4.31 in 534 games (309 starts) with the Marlins, Reds and Cubs. After collecting 87 saves in three seasons as a Cubs closer, he moved back to a starter’s role in 2008 and has a 58-45 record and 3.63 ERA since.
He was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 2008, when he made the All-Star team and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young award balloting.