Invoking his "10-and-five" rights (10 years in the majors, five with the same team), Dempster blocked a trade to the Atlanta Braves in the hopes of giving the Chicago Cubs more time to work out a deal with the Dodgers.
Though Dempster was eventually traded to the Texas Rangers before the July 31 trade deadline, he will be a free agent after the season. According to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers, the Rangers signing Colby Lewis to a one-year, $2 million contract extension all but assures Dempster won't be back in Texas next season.
That presents Dempster with another opportunity to land with the Dodgers. This time, general manager Ned Colletti doesn't have to worry about parting with top prospects to get Dempster. The Dodgers just have to spend money, something they've become very good at doing under the new Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group.
The Dodgers may also have a far greater need for Dempster next season than they did at midseason this year.
Had Colletti been able to swing a trade with the Cubs before July 31, Dempster would have provided depth behind Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano in the Dodgers starting rotation. Actually, he would have slotted in nicely between the two left-handers.
But with the news that Kershaw may require surgery to repair the labrum in his right hip, the Dodgers face the possibility of not having their ace and Cy Young candidate until the middle of next May.
However, it's still unclear whether or not Kershaw needs surgery, according the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez.
Kershaw isn't the only Dodgers pitcher facing offseason surgery either.
Lilly is scheduled to undergo surgery on his left shoulder on Friday (Sept. 21). But he's expected to be ready for spring training. Chad Billingsley might require Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, in which case he'd miss all of next season.
Dempster wouldn't just provide depth for the Dodgers if he signed with them. He might be the team's No. 1 starter out of attrition. A rotation of Dempster, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and whomever could be the fifth starter (Lilly? Stephen Fife?) would be a solid starting five that could add Kershaw later in the season.
If everyone comes back healthy, then Colletti has a nice problem and can perhaps deal from his surplus of starting pitching to help other areas on the roster. But given how pitching staffs wear down during the course of the season, it would probably be smart to keep six starters on hand.
Dempster has already made it clear that he'd like to play for the Dodgers. But more importantly, he'd surely prefer to return to the National League.
Though Dempster has pitched well in his past five starts, giving up two runs or fewer in each appearance, his overall ERA in eight starts with the Rangers is 4.11. With the Cubs, Dempster's ERA was 2.25 in 16 starts, and he was a contender for the NL Cy Young Award.
Signing with the Dodgers would also allow Dempster to move from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington—one of the best hitters ballparks in the majors, according to ESPN.com's park factors—to Dodger Stadium, which is far friendlier to pitchers.
Ultimately, this could work out very well for Dempster. He could get a World Series championship with the Rangers. Then, after he hits free agency, he could sign with the team he wanted to join all along, reuniting with a favorite teammate and playing in a part of the country closer to family.
Oh, and Dempster could also find himself on the next National League powerhouse, depending on how ownership decides to spend its money in the offseason. Next year's team figures to be better with Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford better acclimated to their new surroundings. The front office could add help in the infield and bullpen as well.
Killing that late-July trade to the Braves might end up being the best move Dempster ever made. Veterans with "10-and-five" rights have the opportunity to control their situations and decide where they want to play. For Dempster, that veto power could create the ideal situation for him.
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