On Tuesday, the Cubs dealt Dempster to the Rangers for two Minor League players after they were unable to complete a deal with the Dodgers. Los Angeles gave Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, a list of untouchable players, and then didn't budge.
Dempster had the final say because he has 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the big leagues, five with the same team). He had given Epstein a list of teams he would consider.
Two or three days before news broke on July 23 that the Braves and Cubs had consummated a deal, Epstein told Dempster that Atlanta was very interested and to consider that team. The day before, Epstein told Dempster the Braves weren't going to wait long for a decision. The Cubs and Braves then finalized the names.
"Ryan never got the opportunity for more than an hour to fully contemplate Atlanta with a deal actually in place," Epstein said. "I feel for him. Instead of having time to contemplate it privately, he had everyone telling him what to do and asking questions about it. I think it's hard to criticize him."
Dempster never said he didn't want to be traded to the Braves. He was holding out for a chance to go to the Dodgers.
"He didn't say 'no' -- he said, 'not now,'" Epstein said. "He said, 'No, I'm not going to go to Atlanta until I see about L.A.' Atlanta very reasonably didn't want to wait around and risk not getting a pitcher. He had a place he wanted to go, and a clear No. 1, which is his right, and he wanted to see that through and I don't hold that against him."
Any criticism directed at Dempster isn't warranted, Epstein said.
"It's not fair for anyone to criticize Ryan unless they've been in that spot," Epstein said. "It's a right he's earned. Do we wish he would've had 12 places that were an ideal destination for him instead of one? Sure. That Atlanta deal that we had lined up, I felt was an outstanding deal for the organization. Would we have liked to have executed it? Absolutely."
The Cubs were to get 22-year-old Randall Delgado in exchange for Dempster. Instead, they were able to still complete a deal with the Braves, sending Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson for two Minor League pitchers.
In the final hour before the Trade Deadline on Tuesday, Dempster was with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to listen to conversations with the Dodgers.
"Once he came into our office and actually heard the conversations we had with L.A., he came to realize, 'OK, that's not actually going to happen, let me consider a couple other places,' and the deal got done with about three minutes left," Epstein said.
It was unusual to have a player taking part in the talks, but Epstein said it was helpful.
"If someone really wants to go to a place, you can tell them over and over again that it's probably not going to happen, but unless they're convinced of that, they may not want to move on to their second choice," Epstein said.
Dempster, Epstein and Hoyer were able to joke about the talks prior to the Trade Deadline.
"I know it started to be characterized in the media as contentious, and it wasn't at all," Epstein said. "Had we made that trade with Atlanta, we don't get [Arodys] Vizcaino for Maholm and Johnson. Everything worked out in the end."