MIAMI – The Braves’ Ryan Dempster trade proposal is either dead or on life support with little hope of recovery.
The Chicago Cubs pitcher, who has trade-veto rights as a player with 10 years of major league service and at least five with his current team, has blocked the trade to the Braves so far, hoping he’d instead be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It’s highly unlikely that we make that deal,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wednesday morning. “No, it’s not dead. But I’m not going to paint us in a corner…. We’ve moved on. From very early on, when it became a question [of whether Dempster would approve the deal], we didn’t stop scouting, we didn’t stop having discussions with other clubs. We’ve moved on.”
With the Dodgers unwilling to part with the top prospect that Chicago asked for, the Cubs indicated Wednesday they would keep Dempster and offer him a one-year qualifying offer for 2013. That would assure they’d get a compensatory draft pick if he leaves as a free agent.
The Braves were believed to have offered rookie starting pitcher Randall Delgado to the Cubs for Dempster, and the Cubs agreed to the deal. Delgado was ranked as a top-50 prospect by Baseball America before each of the past two seasons.
Wren said Tuesday that the proposed deal wasn’t dead, and the Braves seemed hopeful that Dempster would change his position if the Dodgers continued their refusal to meet the Cubs’ trade demands. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said when he chatted with Wren at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, he didn’t mention any change in the Dempster situation.
But when Wren did an interview on the Braves’ Atlanta 680-AM flagship radio station Wednesday morning, he said that “certain parameters” of the deal had expired on Tuesday and that the Braves had moved on and were highly unlikely to make the Dempster deal.
A couple of hours later, Wren was asked about that interview and whether things had changed since Tuesday.
“All I said this morning – and I think I told you guys last night – I said that it’s highly unlikely that we make that deal,” he said. “We had certain parameters that expired yesterday. I’m not going to get into great detail on this, other than to say there were certain parameters for us that expired. And the Cubs were fully aware of it and understood.”
Wren would not discuss other starting pitchers the Braves are pursuing before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but they are known to have some interest in Milwaukee ace Zack Greinke, Boston’s Jon Lester and possibly Tampa Bay’s James Shields. They haven’t pursued Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano and the Cubs’ Matt Garza.
With the Marlins now in sale mode — they traded away Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers in the middle of the night after Tuesday’s loss to the Braves — it’s possible the Braves could try to trade for Miami’s Josh Johnson, who dominated Atlanta hitters once again on Monday. But teams are usually reluctant to trade such impact players to division opponents.
The Braves were expected to be among teams in on Greinke if he hits free agency this winter, and Wren indicated again this week they won’t give up multiple prospects for a rental player during the season if they can’t re-sign him to a contract extension.
The bar may have been raised a bit more on the Greinke future contract talks after Philadelphia gave Cole Hamels a six-year, $144 million extension this week. Greinke reportedly turned down a recent five-year, $100-plus million offer from the Brewers.
The Braves were second on Dempster’s ranked list of desirable teams among those pursuing him, behind the Dodgers. Wren and Gonzalez have known Dempster since all were in the Marlins organization in the late 1990s. Dempster was considering family issues and his friendship with Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly when he told the Cubs he would take his time making a decision.
“I think we understand the situation because of our knowledge of Ryan, probably more so than others,” Wren said Tuesday. “It’s a big decision for him. I think he’s being very thoughtful with the process.”
But with the trade deadline looming in six days, the Braves also understood they couldn’t stand idle waiting for Dempster, who made his scheduled start Wednesday for the Cubs.
The Braves want to add a frontline starter to a rotation that has gotten steady work from Tim Hudson but no one else since Brandon Beachy sustained a season-ending injury. The Braves’ 4.31 starters’ ERA was the third-highest in the National League before Wednesday.
Aside from Hudson, Tommy Hanson has been erratic, Ben Sheets has been outstanding in two starts since the Braves signed him after a two-year layoff, and left-hander Mike Minor struggled early but has made strides in recent weeks.
Jair Jurrjens has had a terrible season and regressed again in his last two starts. With an off day in the schedule Thursday, the Braves will push back or skip Jurrjens’ next scheduled turn and start Sheets, Minor and Hudson, in that order, in the series against Philadelphia that starts Friday.