Cubs sign Dempster to extension

Cubs sign Dempster to extension

HOUSTON -- The Chicago Cubs got a head start on some offseason business Saturday, signing converted closer Ryan Dempster to a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension, which locks him up through 2008.

"He's been terrific," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said in announcing the contract. "For me, he's got the whole package that you want in a guy you can win with."

Dempster, who began the year in the Cubs' rotation and made six starts, leads the National League in save percentage at .943 and has been successful in 33 of 35 opportunities.

The new contract includes a $1 million signing bonus and $4 million base in 2006, $5 million in 2007, and $5.5 million in 2008. There are high-level performance bonuses and bonuses linked to where he finishes in Cy Young or Rolaids voting that could push the contract to $18 million.

"He did a great job, performance-wise," Hendry said. "To get thrust in that role in mid-May and go out and do 33 of 35 -- and some of them in tough situations -- that's a tremendous effort.

"Plus, all of us who have gotten to know him know he's a winner," Hendry said. "He's a total team guy, wants to win badly and wants to win badly here. [The contract] was something we wanted to get done here before he's on the open market. I think he's a very enticing guy here on the free-agent market."

This is the longest deal Dempster has had in his career.

"It's cool, and exciting for me," the 28-year-old right-hander said. "It's exciting for my career to know that I'll be back here for more than another year. They gave me a great opportunity here and hopefully I can continue to do the job I've been doing."

But did he consider testing the market?

"The bottom line is weighing everything and thoughts of maybe going out and exploring and being a free agent. I want to be back here because I want to win here," Dempster said. "I think we're so close to doing it, and to get back to where they were in '03 and get a chance to get to the World Series and win a World Series with the Cubs would be awesome.

"It's a good situation where the grass isn't going to get much greener than it is here," he said.

Dempster had been a starter his entire career before making 23 relief appearances last year in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He began the season in the rotation, and went 1-3 with a 5.35 ERA in six starts. He was then switched to the closer role to take over for LaTroy Hawkins.

"I think it was makeup, and knowing his stuff was good," Hendry said about why he thought Dempster was right for the role. "He had two outstanding pitches, but I felt he was the one guy in-house who really had the intangibles. I'm not going to act like I was that smart that he'd do the job the way he's done. I thought internally he's the best candidate. I'm a big believer that the ninth inning is done as much on makeup as stuff."

Dempster is a comedian, and seems to shrug off pressure situations. Even so, had he ever envisioned doing this well?

"Obviously, you like to think you're going to have success and do well, but I don't think I could've drawn it up to go as well as it has," he said of the switch to closer. "It's exciting to go in there and close games and get the save. It's gone a lot better than even I thought it was going to go."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.