ARLINGTON, Texas — It took until about 10 minutes before the Tuesday trading deadline, but the Texas Rangers finally got the front-line starter they were looking for down the stretch.
Right-hander Ryan Dempster, who had the second-best ERA in the National League, was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for a pair of minor leaguers.
Dempster, who will join the team Wednesday, will make his Texas debut Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels.
The trade for Dempster caps a wild couple of weeks of pitching news for the Rangers.
Last week the club lost veteran right-hander Colby Lewis for the remainder of the season with a torn right flexor tendon. The Rangers announced Tuesday that right-hander Neftali Feliz will have Tommy John surgery Wednesday and will be out until next year. The club also decided that right-hander Roy Oswalt, who has struggled in his six starts in Texas, will shift to the bullpen to make room for Dempster.
All the moving pieces made it difficult for the Rangers to get a deal done but they feel like they’ve found the pitcher they need in Dempster, who will be a free agent after the season.
Dempster, who had to approve the deal because of his 10-5 rights, had been linked to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The Rangers getting involved late for his services was fine with him.
“I’m excited for this new chapter of my career with a team that’s already a great team,” Dempster said in a conference call. “They asked me if it was a possible fit and was glad that it was. It’s exciting for me to go somewhere that’s got a real, real good chance at winning the World Series for a third-straight year. Hopefully that can happen.”
That’s what the Rangers are hoping for too as their rotation without Dempster includes no one with more than 92 major-league starts.
“What I like is he’s got savvy,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He’s got tremendous pitchability. He’s a competitor. I think he can be exactly what we’re looking for to move our young pitching staff forward.”
The Rangers had talked with the Cubs about a couple of players and had already made one deal with Texas acquiring catcher Geovany Soto. Texas general manager Jon Daniels said that made the process easier because names had already been out there. Despite that, Daniels said the deal changed late Tuesday with the Cubs getting Class A pitcher Kyle Hendricks and Class A third baseman Christian Villanueva.
The move also increased the Texas payroll as Dempster is in the final year of a four year, $52-million deal.
The club felt like Dempster, who is 117-121 in his career, was worth the gamble.
“Our scouts really feel this guy is a good fit for us,” Daniels said. “Obviously he’s a veteran who’s been through some wars before. He’s got a good pitch mix with the fastball, the slider, the split. He’s good against both righties and lefties. He knows how to pitch.”
The addition of Dempster also allows the Rangers to keep right-hander Alexi Ogando in the bullpen. The club had considered stretching him out and moving him into the rotation but that won’t happen now.
Texas also decided to keep Scott Feldman in the rotation over Oswalt. Oswalt has struggled in six starts with the Rangers, going 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA. He started Monday’s series opener against the Angels and allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. Feldman has won his last five decisions and has an ERA of 1.96 this month.
“It’s the nature of where we are in the season,” Daniels said of the decision to move Oswalt to the bullpen. The club signed Oswalt in May a deal that pays him $5 million for this season.
The Rangers met with Oswalt before the press conference to discuss the move. Oswalt has pitched four times in relief since 2002.
“He wanted to be a part of what’s best and he understands we’ve got those young kids in that rotation and the way Feldman’s throwing the ball and now we’ve just got a big-time pitcher there had to be a change,” Washington said. “Of course he doesn’t want the change to be him but he’s going to do whatever the ball club needs him to do.”
The move by the Rangers may have also blunted the move made by the Angels, who acquired right-hander Zack Greinke last week. Daniels said neither that move nor the injuries to the starting rotation changed the Rangers’ plans towards the deadline.
“We knew we were going to be in a pennant race and whether the Angels got Greinke or not they’re a good club,” Daniels said. “So’s Oakland. Nothing happened in the last few days that changed our minds about those clubs.”