With just about two weeks to go until the trade deadline, the question isn't whether the Chicago Cubs are going to be wheeling and dealing—it's when is the first shoe going to drop?
The answer to that question is sooner rather than later.
It will likely come in the form of 35-year-old right-hander Ryan Dempster being dealt to one of 10 contenders who are said to have varying levels of interest, according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine.
With 33 consecutive scoreless innings under his belt, Dempster's value is never going to be any greater than it is now.
But of the 10 contenders said to be interested, where would Dempster be the best fit?
Let's see if we can't figure it out.
Dempster immediately pushes Masterson to the second spot in the rotation.
Sitting four games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, and one game out of the final Wild Card spot in the AL, the Indians could certainly use a wily veteran such as Dempster to lead their rotation down the stretch.
The Indians' rotation has been one of the worst in baseball thus far—their 4.65 ERA ranks 25th in baseball and opposing hitters are batting .271 against them—only the Royals, Twins and Rockies' starting rotations have fared worse.
While Dempster would be a major upgrade over their current ace, Justin Masterson, the question that has to be asked is this—do the Indians have a legitimate shot of making a deep postseason run, even with Dempster in the fold?
Probably not, which makes the Indians giving up a quality prospect—an area in which they're lacking thanks to the mistake of last season, mortgaging the farm for Ubaldo Jimenez—a bad idea and Dempster a poor fit in Cleveland.
Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the only NL pitchers not to fall flat on his face in the Bronx.
Other than Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees don't exactly have a successful track record with starting pitchers who have spent their entire careers in the National League—Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez (twice) can attest to that.
There's really no need for the Yankees to make a big move at the moment—they have an eight-game lead over second place Baltimore in the AL East and haven't lost a beat since the All-Star game.
CC Sabathia is expected to be activated off of the disabled list tomorrow, and while Andy Pettitte isn't likely to return until early September, the Yankees have enough secondary pieces to keep their heads above water without giving up a big-time prospect to acquire Dempster.
If the Yankees are going to deal with the Cubs, it's far more likely that it'd be for Matt Garza who has experience pitching in the AL East.
A.J. Burnett has been a pleasant surprise in Pittsburgh this season.
While the Pirates truly need a big bat rather than another veteran starting pitcher, adding Dempster to a rotation that features seasoned vets A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard surely isn't a bad idea.
Dempster would give the Bucs four solid starters in their rotation along with Bedard, Burnett and All-Star snub James McDonald, only improving their chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since the early 1990s.
While the Pirates aren't going to deal one of their prized pitching prospects to acquire him, they do have a handful of position players—namely outfielder Starling Marte—that could pique the Cubs' interest.
Pairing Dempster with Justin Verlander would make the Tigers a tough out in a short series.
A one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Ryan Dempster wouldn't necessarily vault the Tigers ahead of the Chicago White Sox or Cleveland Indians in the race for the AL Central, but it puts them in much better shape than they are today.
With youngsters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello having erratic seasons and rookie Drew Smyly battling injuries, adding Dempster may become a necessity rather than a luxury just to ensure that the high-powered Tigers reach the postseason at all.
Dempster would take some pressure off of Yu.
The Rangers have been linked to virtually every quality starting pitcher rumored to be on the trading block, and Dempster is no different.
Adding the veteran Dempster only strengthens a rotation that need another piece. Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish and the injured Colby Lewis have been good in 2012, but Roy Oswalt has been disappointing while Neftali Feliz has been on the shelf since May.
Texas certainly has the prospects needed to make a play for Dempster, but I think they'll look to use those prospects to add a bigger name at the deadline, either Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels.
Would Dempster replace Chris Sale in the rotation?
Nobody is quite sure what the White Sox have planned for All-Star starting pitcher Chris Sale as the season heads into the dog days of summer.
Will they allow the converted reliever to play out the season, or will they shut him down at some point to limit the innings that he puts on his arm?
If Sale remains in the rotation, Dempster would give the White Sox a solid trio of Sale, Jake Peavy and Dempster, making them a difficult out for anyone in a short series.
If Sale is shut down, acquiring Dempster becomes all the more important, as he and Peavy would form a formidable duo of former National League pitchers thrust into the heart of the AL Central pennant race.
Youngsters like Felix Doubront need a leader that they can rally behind.
For all of the drama that has unfolded in Boston this season—as if people truly expected things to go smoothly with the voracious Bobby Valentine at the helm of the club—Bobby V has steered the Red Sox right back into the playoff picture, as they sit 1.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot in the American League.
Neither Jon Lester or Josh Beckett has shown the interest or ability to emerge as leaders of the starting rotation, and Dempster immediately commands respect when he walks into a clubhouse.
Not only would Dempster give the Sox a calming, steadying presence in their rotation, but Dempster could serve as a mentor for young guns Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz, something the duo could certainly benefit from.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer certainly known the Red Sox farm system inside and out, so working out a deal shouldn't be incredibly difficult if politics and hurt feelings are put aside and it's simply a baseball transaction.
The Braves still haven't found a suitable replacement for Brandon Beachy.
While the Braves might not catch the Washington Nationals in the NL East, the NL Wild Card race is wide open, and the Braves likely need to add another piece if they intend to keep their tenuous grip on one of the two Wild Card spots.
Adding Dempster to the fold in Atlanta would give the Braves a solid top three of Dempster, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson.
If Ben Sheets is truly back to his prior form, then a Dempster addition makes the Braves one of the favorites to clinch a Wild Card berth and perhaps cause some havoc for other teams in the playoffs.
Chad Billinglsey's elbow makes adding Dempster a priority.
It was less than a week ago that CBS Sports' Jon Heyman called the Dodgers the favorites to land Ryan Dempster from the Cubs. And with Chad Billingsley having elbow issues that could cost him some significant time, there's no reason to think that they've let up on their pursuit of the 35-year-old.
Locked in a battle for NL West supremacy with the Giants, the veteran right-hander would compliment the flame-throwing southpaw Clayton Kershaw well atop the Dodgers' rotation, giving the Dodgers a big-time performer from either side of the rubber while taking some of the pressure off of the overachieving Chris Capuano, not to mention the Dodgers' bullpen.
Ricky Romero desperately needs help in Toronto.
No team in baseball has seen it's starting rotation decimated by injury as much as the Toronto Blue Jays have in 2012.
Sitting nearly 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, Toronto's best best for making the postseason is as one of the wild card teams out of the American League.
Toronto has the deepest farm system in the game, so they certainly have the pieces necessary to get a deal done if they decide that Dempster is the pitcher that they want.
With a potent Jays offense behind him—their 444 runs scored are the third most in all of baseball— pairing Dempster alongside Ricky Romero atop Toronto's rotation could be just the thing that ends their nearly 20-year absence from the playoffs.