ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers barely beat the deadline on a trade for longtime Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it to the mound in time for first pitch against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers weren’t as good as their record reflected heading into the All-Star break, and they’ve illustrated that with a couple weeks of bad baseball. The Angels battered starter Derek Holland for the second time in his past three outings. Albert Pujols, who has recovered nicely from an awful start to the season, had two home runs and MVP-candidate Mike Trout added a 412-foot bomb for good measure.
Holland only gave up five hits, but three of them left the yard. He drew manager Ron Washington’s ire by walking the Angels’ No. 9 hitter Chris Iannetta to lead off the sixth inning. Trout made him pay immediately by golfing a ball into the left-field stands to give his team a 3-0 lead. With Angels ace Jered Weaver on the mound, that lead was already insurmountable.
The Rangers were 9-14 in July and are 7-9 since the All-Star break. They are 17-19 against A.L. West opponents, which is a far cry from their 40-17 record against the division last season. God bless Dempster, but he can’t turn this thing around on his own. He’ll make his first start Thursday against former Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson. And the Angels have an opportunity to move within two games of the Rangers before Dempster takes the mound. Welcome to town, sir.
With that unhappy bit of news out of the way, the Rangers did make a shrewd deal for Dempster, who has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season. By waiting until the last possible moment, GM Jon Daniels was able to trade for a proven pitcher without having to part with any advanced prospects. When the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t reach an agreement with the Cubs, the Rangers swooped in and struck a deal. Daniels admitted that it was an excruciating few minutes Tuesday.
“Yeah, it’s brutal. It sucks cause you’re sitting there thinking with seven minutes to go, you may not make a move,” Daniels told us on KESN-FM 103.3. “You know it’s not like one trade’s going to put us over the top or not. We have a good team and I trust these guys. Even without Dempster, these guys will find a way. But it certainly helps our chances without a doubt. And it is hard to wait to the end. The temptation is to jump out there a little bit earlier and maybe pay a little higher price for the sure thing and know that you’ve got it.”
Dempster was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts with the Cubs. He has three pitches – fastball, slider, splitter – and he’s regarded as an extremely intelligent guy. The Rangers traded for Cubs catcher Geovany Soto on Monday, so the two will be batterymates Thursday. Soto said that Dempster sent him a text message once the trade was announced saying, “You can’t get rid of me.”
“He’s super smart,” Soto told FoxSportsSouthwest.com on Tuesday. “He can make a lot of adjustments on the fly. He’s reinvented himself a few times in his career and he just keeps getting better.”
The Rangers informed veteran pitcher Roy Oswalt that he would be moving to the bullpen to make room for Dempster. Daniels said the Rangers wanted to “ride the hot hand” of Scott Feldman, who has won five consecutive starts and looked a lot like the guy who won 17 games in 2009.
By not jumping the gun, the Rangers were able to add a quality starter while holding onto advanced prospects such as Mike Olt and Martin Perez. The Cubs ended up with Class A Myrtle Beach third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
Daniels knows that Washington and his players were watching closely to see what happened at the deadline. When Zack Greinke ended up with the Angels, everyone wanted to see how the Rangers would respond. Now, we’ll see if Dempster’s arrival can stabilize a rotation that has been riddled with injuries and inconsistency. “I think there’s an energy that goes along with a new acquisition,” Daniels said. “Especially a guy that walks in with credentials like Ryan’s got. And he’s a guy that all our players are familiar with even though they haven’t all played against him in the National League. The guy’s an All-Star.
“When that kind of guy walks in the clubhouse, it means a couple things I believe. It further reinforces that players, front office, scouts, coaches, we’re all on the same page, we’re all doing everything we possibly can to win. But more importantly, it gives us a guy who can go out and win us some games.
Of course, it would help if the first four hitters in the order weren’t going 0-for-16, as they did Tuesday. If the Rangers keep playing like this, Dempster will feel like he never left the Cubs.