Baseball Toaster Cub Town
That Answers That Question
2005-10-01 13:36
by Derek Smart

For those of you wondering what the Cubs would be doing or not doing about next season's closer situation, wonder no more, as the Cubs inked Ryan Dempster to a three-year, $15.5M contract today.

I suppose I'm of two minds on this:

  1. Dempster has really done the job at the end of games for the Cubs this year, posting a 1.85 ERA while blowing only 2 of his 35 save opportunities - both of which still ended in a Cub victory (not that he had anything to do with that). He also had a much lower BA against as a reliever versus a starter - .218 to .280 - and a far better K/BB ratio out of the pen, improving from 36/22 in his 34.2 innings starting to 53/27 in 58.1 innings thus far in relief.

  2. Nearly all relievers are fungible, at least to a certain degree, and while I think Dempster has some intangibles in his favor - basically, what appears from observation to be an ability to not allow the previous outing's results to affect what he does next time up, although admittedly, he's been successful enough to not have much of an opportunity to exercise that theoretical skill - it's nearly impossible to know from just under 60 innings what he's going to do for the next three years, making a commitment of that length and that amount of cash seem a little large.

So, I'm left thinking that the Cubs could either get burned in this or get a great bargain - after all, a guy like Billy Wagner is likely to get $8-9M a year for an even longer commitment, and while he's a demonstrably better pitcher, if you get 2005-style results from Dempster over the next three seasons, I don't think Wagner's worth that much more money or time.

Spending huge amounts of cash for a guy to throw as few innings as most closers do seems awfully wasteful, but at the same time this team absolutely foundered without someone to anchor that final frame. Whether Dempster is a great closer or not, getting a guy who at least appears to be able to throw at the end for just over $5M a year is a pretty solid deal.

Still, there's been little reason to have confidence in the organization's ability to identify where their bullpen money should be spent, so while I do like Dempster, you'll pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical.

If it sounds like I'm waffling, it's because I am - if I were more certain of Dempster's ability to get the job done over the next three seasons I'd be a lot more enthusiastic - but if I had to give it a rating of some sort, I'd suppose I'd go with a slight thumbs up.

2005-10-02 16:52:48
1.   Sandus
I thought it was organizational policy not to negotiate during the season.
2005-10-02 23:09:22
2.   dan the fan
well said derek,
I have similar feelings.
The sample size on e Dempster's work as a closer seems awfully small to warrant this magnitude of a deal. On the other hand, it's not like they paid him an obscene ammount,
It seems like a very reasonable deal for a guy who has been nothing but effective in his carreer as a closer, and it's one less hole to fill. Personally, I'm still clinging to the irrational hope that Hendry might still go out and sign BJ Ryan and have a dynamite 1-2 punch at the back end.
Maybe I should stop doing so much Peyote.
2005-10-03 08:38:55
3.   chicagoburke
I actually feel pretty good about this one. The bullpen needs a bunch of work and this is a good step in the right direction, suring up the most successful member of the pen in '05. Still a LONG way to go to field a competitive team in '06.
2005-10-03 08:49:00
4.   onetimer
I think the idea that you can get by without a closer went by the boards last year in New York. I never want to go home because some goof like LaTroy can't get the 27th out.
2005-10-03 11:41:46
5.   Indy fan
I also like the signing. The only thing that bothers me about Dempster are the walks. It seemed like when there was a close game he would walk at least one guy. I feel he was lucky in certain situations. Better lucky then good I guess. Hopefully he is both for years to come.
2005-10-03 12:32:49
6.   Lefty
Terrible signing. No doubt about it. And this shows that Hendry hasn't learned anything about spending money on bullpens. A complete disaster. This is the contract we'll all be lamenting in 2007.
2005-10-03 12:40:16
7.   kjk
Sandus, that is exactly what came to my mind first ...
2005-10-04 08:49:31
8.   rynox
Nah, I think the Dempster-to-closer move was genius. I base that on Dempster's first-inning performance as a starter. I believe the scouts said to Hendry, "look we need a closer and this guy Dempster usually doesn't give up much in the first inning or two" and the rest is, as they say, history.

Obviously, I would have been happier if the Cubs signed a bona fide closer like Baez, but Dempster can do the job.

>>> I feel he was lucky in certain situations. Better lucky then good I guess. <<<

I think you can blame the slider. He's got that Wood-like slider and I think he threw that a little too much for balls. When guys stop biting on the sliders away & the elevated fastballs then thats when you see lots of walks.

It's almost like he needs one more pitch... like a straight-change. Then he'd be just perfect.

2005-10-04 20:57:06
9.   Todd S
I'm pretty much with Lefty on this one. Next year we'll be trying to figure out why Hendry spent so much money on a mediocre pitcher.

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