AL West-leading Rangers get Cubs ace Ryan Dempster

The Texas Rangers won the Ryan Dempster sweepstakes. Now,

they’ll try to capture the ultimate prize.

The AL West leaders fortified their rotation for the stretch

run, acquiring the Cubs ace before Tuesday’s trade deadline for two

minor leaguers. In exchange, they sent infielder Christian

Villanueva and pitcher Kyle Hendricks to Chicago.

Dempster, who had power to block deals, refused to approve a

trade to Atlanta last week. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York

Yankees also tried to land the 35-year-old righty.

”It’s a great opportunity over there,” said Dempster, who has

spent all of his nearly 15 seasons in the National League. ”It’s

not going to be easy. There are a lot of teams out there that are

really good. I think they have as good a chance as anybody.”

Dempster was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 games for the Cubs and

can become a free agent after the season. He was one of several

players Chicago traded in a 24-hour span, with pitcher Paul Maholm

and outfielder Reed Johnson going to Atlanta and catcher Geovany

Soto to Texas.

Teams had until 4 p.m. EDT to complete trades without waivers.

From now until the end of the season, clubs have a chance to claim

players before they are dealt.

With a strong season that included a 33-inning scoreless streak,

Dempster was one of the most attractive pitchers on the market. The

Rangers were looking for pitching help even though they began the

day leading with a 59-42 record and a 3 1/2-game lead over Oakland

in the AL West.

The Dempster trade came less than a week after the division

rival Los Angeles Angels got former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in

a swap with Milwaukee. Many fans expected Texas to counter with a

big move, and the Rangers pulled it off.

The two-time AL champion Rangers needed help with their


Right-hander Colby Lewis underwent surgery Friday to repair a

torn flexor tendon in his elbow and will miss the remainder of the

season. Roy Oswalt has struggled, too, since signing as a free

agent in midseason and is being moved to the bullpen.

”He might be a guy like Colby (Lewis),” Rangers outfielder

David Murphy said. ”I loved seeing a guy like that pounding the

strike zone and working late into games. (Dempster) might have an

advantage off the bat because not many guys in this league have

seen him much at all.”

The Cubs had agreed to deal Dempster to Atlanta last week, but

he did not give his approval.

”I just never said no,” he said, adding he needed time to

think about it. ”The last few days, I had to give it a lot more

thought to the teams I might possibly be traded to.”

Did he make the right decision?

”We’ll see,” Dempster said. ”There’s no right or wrong

decision. There’s just journeys in life that we end up taking. We

try to make the most out of those. They’ve got a great ballclub

down there. They’ve got some really good baseball players.”

Another question: How will he fare against the American


”It doesn’t make any difference what league you’re in,”

Dempster said. ”If you put the ball where you want to put it,

you’ll do all right.”

His preference was to play for the Dodgers, and although the

teams remained in contact right until the end, general manager Jed

Hoyer said they were never really close.

Dempster spent the last few hours before the deadline in the

Cubs’ offices, and when it became clear a deal with the Dodgers was

unlikely, he allowed other teams to get in the running.

Hoyer insisted there was no lingering animosity over the Braves

deal falling apart, although they did have to hash out some


”There were a lot of conversations,” Hoyer said. ”It’s hard.

He felt like he had a place he wanted to go. … He wasn’t

unprepared to make a decision, but I think when the decision

actually came and there was the finality of it, he wanted to wait a

little longer and explore his options.”

”So there were a lot of conversations. I think he indicated the

communication with the front office has been good. … We wouldn’t

be doing our job and we wouldn’t have been fair to Atlanta if we

weren’t constantly in communication with Ryan,” he said.

With a contract set to expire after the season ends, Dempster

simply wasn’t part of the plan with the Cubs in a rebuilding mode.

They hired president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer,

hoping they could put together the first championship since 1908

after they helped build two title winners in Boston, ending a long

drought there.

Had the Rangers deal not gone through, Hoyer said Dempster

probably would have remained a Cub. He was scheduled to start

Tuesday against Pittsburgh, but Casey Coleman took his spot after

being recalled from Triple-A Iowa along with infielder Adrian

Cardenas and catcher Welington Castillo.

Hoyer said teams had also shown interest in outfielder Alfonso

Soriano and pitcher Matt Garza, but they remained with the Cubs.

The fact that Garza has been sidelined lately by a slight fluid

buildup in his right triceps area didn’t help his value. The Cubs

hope he’ll be ready to pitch Tuesday at San Diego.

”The timing didn’t allow teams to feel like they could see him

out on the mound and I understand that,” Hoyer said. ”Teams are

making trades this time of year to try to win the World


A Garza deal would have left the Cubs without their top three


The Dempster trade is just the latest in a series of moves for a

franchise that dealt the troubled Carlos Zambrano to Miami in the

offseason and hired manager Dale Sveum to replace Mike Quade.

They’re trying to stock up on prospects, particularly pitchers, and

that meant saying goodbye to a popular team leader who was active

in the community.

Dempster was coming off Tommy John surgery and had been released

by the Reds when he signed with the Cubs before the 2004 season. He

spent several years as the closer after replacing LaTroy Hawkins

before being moved back to the rotation in 2008. He responded with

a career-high 17 wins and a 2.96 ERA for their most recent division

winner, and he’s been mostly steady ever since, rebounding from a

difficult season last year.

”He knows how to make adjustments,” Soto said. ”He’s known

how to reinvent himself. Whatever he’s been doing has been


The 22-year-old Hendricks was 5-8 with a 2.82 ERA at Class A

Myrtle Beach. The right-hander was a Carolina League All-Star, and

has struck out 112 and walked just 15 batters in 130 2-3


The 21-year-old Villanueva is hitting .285 with 10 home runs and

59 RBIs with Myrtle Beach.