(However, the Dodgers are reportedly Dempster's first preference, so perhaps that's why he hasn't approved the deal to Atlanta yet.)
The Dodgers don't want to surrender a top prospect—believed to be Double-A pitcher Zach Lee—for a player set to become a free agent after the season. With greater pitching depth in their organization, the Braves can take that risk.
So the Dodgers and general manager Ned Colletti are apparently moving on. But Colletti will still be on the phone with Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein. A deal for Dempster may not have worked out, but according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine, the Dodgers are interested in another Cubs pitcher, Matt Garza.
Losing out on Dempster may work out better for Colletti anyway. Garza is a better fit for the Dodgers for a variety of reasons.
No Free Agency Worries Until 2013
The Dodgers' big hang-up in trading for Dempster was possibly losing him to free agency after trading a top prospect to get him. No such worries with Garza, who has one more arbitration year that keeps him under club control through 2013.
Not only does that mean the Dodgers get one more year out of Garza for their troubles, but it also provides a larger window to negotiate a new contract. The Dodgers have a year to figure out if they want to keep Garza long term. That makes up for having to trade a top prospect like Lee.
The team also has a chance to show him that new ownership is serious about building a championship contender, something Garza's never taken part in. What if Colletti brings in Cole Hamels or Josh Hamilton? Garza is part of a young core that can help the Dodgers contend for a World Series for years to come.
In His Prime
Even if the Dodgers did acquire Dempster and he expressed a willingness to sign a contract extension, how long of a contract would the team really want to agree to?
Dempster will be 36 years old next year with 15 major league seasons on his resume.
Yes, Dempster pitched four seasons as a reliever, so perhaps his arm doesn't have quite as much wear on it as it would if he'd been a 200-inning starter his whole career (Though making 60-70 appearances as a reliever can be taxing on an arm as well).
Dempster looks like he's capable of pitching at a high level for at least another one or two seasons, but how much does he really have left?
Meanwhile, Garza is 28 years old, arguably in the prime of his career. He's pitched seven seasons in the majors, but it's very possible that we haven't seen the best from him yet.
If the Dodgers sign him to the six-year contract that's now the standard among elite-level pitchers, they could get Garza's best six or seven seasons from him. And after that, he'd be the same age as Dempster is now.
Another Power Right-Hander
The Dodgers have an excellent top two of the rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano. Both pitchers are left-handed, however, and could use a hard-throwing right-hander to balance out the starting five.
Chad Billingsley can be that pitcher, though he's been inconsistent throughout his career and just served a stint on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
(Billingsley looked great in his return last night, however, holding the Cardinals to one run over six innings).
With Garza, the Dodgers can slot him in between Kershaw and Capuano for a balanced top three. Billingsley becomes an excellent No. 4 starter. Garza would also make the Dodgers' rotation younger, with three of their top four starters still in their twenties.
While we're at it, let's fantasize about Hamels joining that rotation. The Dodgers would probably disregard balance between righties and lefties with a top two of Hamels and Kershaw. Or maybe they slide Garza in between those two. Kershaw as a No. 3 starter? Billingsley as a No. 5? Four of the five starters still in their twenties?
That noise you just heard was Dodgers fans swooning. Coletti, Don Mattingly and Magic Johnson probably joined in too.
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