CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster held out for a deal to the Dodgers, but with less than five minutes to go before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he said yes to the Rangers.
The Cubs' makeover continued Tuesday when they dealt Dempster to the defending American League champions, finalizing the deal minutes before the 3 p.m. CT Deadline. Dempster, who had been scheduled to start Tuesday night, was in Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer's office for about an hour in case he was needed to make a last-minute decision.
"He held pretty firm on the Dodger thing," Hoyer said. "I was really glad he was in our office for the last couple hours. It was probably fun for him. He got to see how it worked. He sat in our office and watched himself on TV."
Prospects acquired by Cubs
Christian Villanueva, 3B: The Rangers held on to Mike Olt, their top third base prospect, so they felt more comfortable in dealing Villanueva, whom many thought was No. 2 behind Olt on the depth chart. Playing in the Class A Advanced Carolina League this year, Villanueva has continued to show the ability to hit for average and get on base with an advanced approach at the plate. He's more of a gap, doubles hitter now, but it looks like there's at least some home run power to come as he matures. Originally a shortstop when he signed, he's an outstanding defensive third baseman, with good range, hands and a strong arm. He got some work at second with Texas because of the logjam at the hot corner, but only Josh Vitters is in front of him in terms of third base prospects in the Cubs system.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP: Hendricks may not wow with eye-popping stuff, but the Dartmouth product knows how to pitch. And it's not that he doesn't have any stuff at all. His fastball can sit in the low 90s and he has a very good changeup. He mixes those with his breaking stuff very well and is a premium strike thrower, as evidenced by his 1.03 BB/9 ratio in his first full season at the time of the trade. He may not have the highest ceiling, but he does profile well as a starter who could move quickly and help the back end of a rotation in the future.
The Cubs get third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who were both playing at Class A Myrtle Beach. It's the third deal Chicago has made in the last 24 hours. On Monday night, the Cubs sent pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves in exchange for two Minor League pitchers, and earlier Tuesday, they acquired another Minor League pitcher from the Rangers for catcher Geovany Soto.
"That's why I went down there -- I heard [the Rangers] had a good catcher [in Soto]," Dempster quipped.
Dempster, 35, who ranked among the National League leaders with a 2.25 ERA, had favored a deal to the Dodgers. As a player with 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the big leagues, five with the same team), he had veto power.
The Cubs thought they had a deal last week with the Braves, but Dempster wasn't ready to say yes at that time.
"He felt he had a place he wanted to go, he knew what he wanted," Hoyer said. "It wasn't that he was unprepared to make a decision [about the Braves], but when the decision came, and the finality of it, I think he wanted to wait a little longer and explore his options."
Reports that the Cubs had a deal with the Braves apparently caught Dempster off guard.
"I never really got a chance to make a decision," Dempster said about the proposed deal in which the Cubs would've gotten 22-year-old right-hander Randall Delgado. "It was kind of made for me, and I just needed time to think about it. It worked out the way it did. I'm happy with going to the Texas Rangers, extremely happy."
The Cubs didn't have many teams they could deal with.
"Sometimes you have 29 teams you can talk to, sometimes 10 teams you can talk to, and in this case, we didn't," Hoyer said.
But the Cubs and Dodgers couldn't find a good match, Hoyer said. Dempster will be a pure rental. Players must be with a team for an entire season in order to qualify for Draft-pick compensation. Chicago was reportedly interested in top pitching prospects, and was believed to be targeting Allen Webster, but Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti didn't budge.
"Two teams have to agree on a value to make a trade, and I guess we never got to that point," Hoyer said. "It's no fault of theirs, it's no fault of ours. That's why trades are hard to make. You assume when you pick up the phone to call a team, most trades don't work out because people value things differently. We could never get to the right place together. It wasn't for lack of phone minutes, that's for sure."
When told the Cubs and Dodgers couldn't agree, Dempster gave Hoyer the go-ahead to talk to other teams.
"Once the Dodgers were out, there were two teams that got in on it, and the Rangers moved really fast," Dempster said. "They obviously have a very good team, and I'm going to go down there and hopefully be a small piece of what they have going there. They're in first place and proven winners the last couple years. I'm going to go down there and hopefully sneak in the back door and try to blend in and do my job when asked to do my job."
Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, who the Rangers also were reportedly interested in, tweeted the news: "Cubs just played lockerrroom Musical chairs... #getthatring demp, paulie, geo and reeder...good luck fellas."
Active in the community, Dempster will be a free agent after this season. As for next year, he hasn't thought that far ahead.
"I've just thought about right now," he said. "I'm just focused on today. I've got to try to control those emotions because I have a job to do."
His career has come full circle. Dempster was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, then traded in '96 to the Marlins.
Dempster's departure has been rumored for weeks, and he said it was a relief to finally end the speculation.
"There's definitely a lot of excitement to go to a first-place team and a winner," Dempster said. "There's some tough feelings and emotions. I played here for a long time and I pitched a lot of games on that mound. It'll be weird not putting on that Cubs uniform."
One of the most popular players in the clubhouse, Dempster signed with the Cubs in January 2004 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August '03. He was the Cubs' closer for three seasons, starting in '05, and is one of 17 pitchers with at least 100 wins and 85 saves. He returned to the rotation in '08 and went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA. He's finished with double-digit wins in each of the last four seasons.
How will he fare against the American League?
"He's one of those pitchers who can pitch in any league in any park because he has command of every pitch," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Tuesday. "He's sneaky and can pitch up, he can get on people's hands and backdoor the cutter. He can nullify lineups because he's capable of doing so many things to a hitter's weaknesses."
This season has been the right-hander's best, despite two stints on the disabled list. His record would be better if he had gotten some run support early in the season. Dempster went 18 starts, dating back to August 2011, without a win until finally getting the "W" on June 5 against the Brewers.
Dempster talked to Greg Maddux, now a special assistant with the Rangers, in Spring Training, and he gave rave reviews on Texas manager Ron Washington.
"You go through a lot of different feelings -- happy, sadness, excitement, things like that," Dempster said. "Most of all I'm excited. I'm real excited to go over there and have a chance to win a World Series. It's going to be a lot of fun, it's going to be hot -- really, really hot in Texas -- but I'm looking forward to pitching for the Rangers."
What will he miss about Chicago?
"I'm going to miss the walk to the park," said Dempster, who lived in the Wrigleyville area.