Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Ryan Dempster had a right to block a trade to Atlanta and does not deserve criticism for it.
”We were on great terms throughout the entire process,” Epstein said Wednesday.
The Cubs wound up trading their ace to Texas for two minor leaguers. But Epstein acknowledged he would have preferred to complete the deal with Atlanta for pitching prospect Randall Delgado that was on the table last week. It fell apart because Dempster, who had veto power, would not immediately give his approval.
”He didn’t say no,” Epstein said. ”He said not now.”
The pitcher had told management that he would consider Atlanta, but the Dodgers were his first choice.
Dempster was one of several Cubs players dealt in a 24-hour span, with pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson going to Atlanta and catcher Geovany Soto to Texas.
Pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Alfonso Soriano also came up in discussions with other teams, but they remained in Chicago.
Garza has been sidelined lately by fluid in his right triceps, and Epstein said that hurt his trade value. He said it’s too soon to say if the Cubs will try to build around him or deal him in the offseason.
”We’ll see what our situation looks like and what the market looks like,” Epstein said about trading Garza.
He also left open the possibility of Soriano being dealt through the waiver process, saying, ”He’s helping us, but I think he could help other teams.”
But the biggest news around the Cubs the past few days was Dempster.
He spent the hours leading up to Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline in the Cubs offices and had conversations with Los Angeles. When it became clear a deal with the Dodgers would not happen, he allowed other teams to get in the running.
He ultimately wound up with the AL West-leading Rangers, who were looking for pitching help heading into the stretch run.
Fans in Texas were hoping they would get a top-tier starter, particularly after the Angels landed former Cy Young Award winning Zack Greinke in a swap with Milwaukee, and their wish was granted.
In Chicago, Dempster had been taking some heat, and Epstein said that wasn’t right.
”I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to criticize Ryan unless they’ve been in that spot,” he said. ”It’s a right that he’s earned. Do we wish that we would have had 12 places that were an ideal destination for him instead of one? Sure. That Atlanta deal that we had lined up I thought was an outstanding deal for the organization. Would we have liked to execute it? Absolutely. But in the end, my thoughts in his situation might have been exactly the same.”
Epstein acknowledged Dempster’s stance probably affected his trade value.
He said he had told the pitcher they were close to a deal with the Braves two or three days before news broke that a deal was in place.
”We consummated the deal with Atlanta quietly and told Ryan we had the deal `so now, you don’t have to decide right away but keep thinking about it,”’ Epstein said. ”That was a good conversation. Then, an hour later, the story leaked.
”With the nature of technology, these things obviously spread quickly and like wildfire. Ryan never had the opportunity for more than I’d say an hour to fully contemplate Atlanta with a deal actually in place. Then, all of a sudden, instead of having time to contemplate it quietly, he had everyone telling him what to do, everyone asking him questions about everything. It became a nuisance for him. I think it’s really hard to criticize Ryan.”