Ryan Dempster: One of the Worst Free Agent Signings?

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Ryan Dempster: One of the Worst Free Agent Signings?
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

SI.com's Ted Keith recently outlined "the worst" free agent signings of the 2008 offseason, most of which were not surprising. Oliver Perez and Milton Bradley have been two of the biggest disappointments in baseball. Edgar Renteria and Pat Burrell have shown very little at the dish this season.

But there was one name that I was shocked to see in the "worst" column: Ryan Dempster.

"A career year in 2008 that included personal bests in wins, ERA and WHIP earned Dempster a sizable raise from the three-year, $15.5 million deal that expired last year. But so far he hasn't exactly justified that raise, regressing to a 10-8 mark with a 3.72 ERA. In fact, his numbers are down across the board. He's given up more hits, runs and home runs than he did a year ago, with a worse WHIP and fewer strikeouts per nine innings. He hasn't been terrible, but the Cubs were clearly expecting more this year from a pitcher who signed the fourth-highest contract of any free-agent starter last winter. With his salary increasing each of the next three years and with a $14 million player option for 2012, the Cubs can only hope that Dempster will soon resemble the pitcher who earned that large deal in the first place."

While it's safe to say that Dempster has not been worth the big bucks the Cubs doled out to him this season, I can't help but think that Dempster's inclusion on this list is unfair.

Outside of a poor April and a injury plagued July, Dempster has been one of the Cubs' best starting pitchers this season. And while Keith notes that his numbers across the board are down, Dempster's drop has not been drastic:

WHIP: (2008: 1.21 ) (2009: 1.34)
K/9: (2008: 8.14 ) (2009: 7.54)
ERA: (2008: 2.96) (2009: 3.72)

In addition, when you factor in that Dempster's BB/9 rate has actually improved (3.31 to 3.07), and that his K/BB rate has remained the same (2.46), you get a better picture into the 2009 Ryan Dempster. Dempster is still a very, very good pitcher.

So is it safe to put Dempster on this list? I don't think so. Fangraphs even states that his performance this season was worth $13.7 million, which would actually make him underpaid (Dempster earned $8 million this year). Sure, his performance wasn't the same as it was in 2008, but the Cubs have reasons to believe that Dempster will perform better in 2010.


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