General manager Jim Hendry confirmed Tuesday that manager Lou Piniella gave Dempster the green light to move from the back of the bullpen to the rotation in time for spring training.
If Dempster is on the road to starting, who becomes the Cubs' closer?
''It has yet to be determined,'' Hendry said. ''That will be up to Lou in spring training.''
Young right-hander Carlos Marmol and veteran right-hander Bob Howry would be the top two candidates. And if free-agent right-hander Kerry Wood re-signs with the Cubs, he also would be a strong candidate.
Two things that need little elaboration:
One: There are few standout, free-agent starting pitchers available, so quite obviously Hendry is polishing up his wares, touting desired features -- "But wait! There's more! Not only can this top-of-the-line player pitch in relief, and a fine closer it is, but it can also start a game once every five days! How 'bout that?!" -- in a product no longer personally needed, because...
Two: The Cubs have other, better options to close games. Kerry Wood will likely return to the club, providing one viable, perhaps desirable, option. Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol are available as well, though personally I'd save Marmol for high leverage situations, which often occur before the ninth, rather than tie him to a specific inning. I'd make Wood the closer, with Howry as a backup. Dempster does not figure into these plans in any significant way, so it makes sense that Hendry would try to trade him. Selling him as a capable starter only adds value.
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Jason Marquis has seen his name bandied about in trade talks, for the same reason Dempster will be/is on the market. With Sean Gallagher waiting in the wings, and Hendry reportedly hot after Hiroki Kuroda, Marquis, mediocre at best, would better serve the Cubs as trade bait to improve at shortstop or in the outfield.
Simply put, Hendry must take advantage of the market.