Scouting The Trade Market: Ryan Dempster

The quietly surging Robinson Cano
Tonight's game has been rained out
(Photo Credit: Flickr user wisley via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees’ perpetual search for pitching takes us to Ryan Dempster today, who we got to see firsthand over the weekend. He wasn’t very good, walking six and allowing eight hits in just 5.1 IP on Saturday, and the three runs scored had more to do with the Yankees not getting the job done with men on base than Dempster bearing down and pitching his way out of jams. A recent report indicated that there’s “no likely scenario” in which the Cubs trade him, but we’ve heard that about so many players in recent years that it’s tough to take it seriously. Let’s break it down…

The Pros

  • Dempster has proven himself as a bonafide workhorse over the last few years, throwing at least 200 innings every year since 2008 (he’s on pace to do that again this year). Although he had a lot of elbow issues early in his career, his only trip to the disabled list in recent years was due to a broken toe he suffered climbing over the dugout fence in 2009. That qualifies as a fluke.
  • His fastball velocity has held up well over the years, still sitting in the low-90’s regularly. He’ll use both a two and four-seamer, though Dempster’s bread-and-butter is a mid-80’s slider that he throws 35.5% of the time. He’ll also throw his low-80’s changeup one out of every ten pitches. Since the start of the 2009 season, his slider has an 18.1% whiff rate, the changeup 20.2%. That’s pretty damn good.
  • Since returning to the rotation in 2008, Dempster’s been above eight strikeouts per nine innings in three of the last four years (it was 7.74 K/9 in the one exception year, which is still close to eight per nine). His ground ball rate has hovered between 47.1% and 48.1% every year since 2007. Hooray for consistency.
  • This is the last guaranteed year of his contract and he projects to be a Type-A free agent at the moment.

The Cons

  • Dempster does have a considerable platoon split since returning to the rotation. He’s held right-handed batters to a .240/.304/.375 batting line with 19.8% strikeouts and 7.3% unintentional walks since the start of 2008, but lefties have gotten to him for a .259/.339/.409 batting line with 24.0% strikeouts (very good) and 9.8% unintentional walks (not very good). His unintentional walk rate since 2008 is solid (3.18), but he’s been around 3.50 both this year and last. That’s nothing special.
  • He’s become increasingly more homer prone over the last several years and is well-below-average at 1.27 HR/9 this year. His 15.1% HR/FB ratio is a touch high compared to recent years, and it’s worth noting that eight of the 13 homers he’s allowed this year came in his first five starts. He’s allowed just five homers in eleven starts since.
  • I’m not sure how much (if any) stock to put in this, but Dempster is a career National Leaguer and has gotten hit around during Interleague play: 4.98 ERA, ~4.55 FIP in 202.1 career innings against the AL. We saw that on display last weekend and it’s not an insignificant amount of innings, but they’re spread out over 14 seasons (so an average of 14.5 IP per season, which is nothing). For what it’s worth, he has just one career playoff start to his credit, this one back in 2007.
  • Dempster has a $14M player option for 2012 in his contract, and player options are alwaysbad news because the team has zero control over what happens. Any team that acquires him has to assume he’ll pick it up. He’ll earn $13.5M this year (about $2.25M per month) and there are a series of escalators built in the contract that are based on award finishes, etc.

The Yankees reportedly have no interest in Dempster (or teammate Carlos Zambrano), but we know they were at least scouting the Cubs recently. Plus “no interest” has led to an introductory press conference a number of times over the last few seasons, so I have a hard time believing that report. The player option is a killer because he could come over, completely stink, then eat up $14M of payroll next year. That said, at least Dempster’s option is market value; you don’t have to try all that hard to envision him going out on the market after the season and getting that kind of money. If he comes over, pitches well and picks it up, hey that’s freaking awesome. But that’s just one possible scenario out of many.

As for similar players traded recently, all I can come up with are Ted Lilly (Cubs to Dodgers), Javy Vazquez (Braves to Yankees), and Jake Westbrook (Indians to Cardinals), though I think we can all agree that Dempster is a notch above those two. They also aren’t perfect comparisons because of the player option (plus Javy was not a midseason trade). Those three required packages of multiple young players/prospects, which is probably what it would take to acquire Dempster. Anyway, I’m not sure what to think here. There are obviously pluses and some definite red flags, but I think it’s safe to say he passes the “better than Freddy Garcia” test. But is the cost and risk worth it?

The quietly surging Robinson Cano
Tonight's game has been rained out
  • gio

    Why does he pass the “better than Freddy Garcia” test?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Garcia: 3.63/4.33/4.16 E/F/x
      Dempster: 5.46/4.15/3.38 E/F/x

      ERA is a crude stat.


    • Ghost

      Because he is a hell of a lot better in general with actual good “stuff”, and doesn’t throw slop.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    He’ll cost more than “a couple of nonprospects”, so I’ll pass.

    • Ghost

      If Brackman could in anyway shape or form entice the Cubs along with some other B prospects, then it might be an interesting scenario in which sees the Yankees ultimately get 2 comp picks.

      • pat

        Offering him arbitration in 2013 after he exercised his 12 million player option for 2012? No thanks.

        • pat

          *Excuse me, $14 million.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I think I’d rather have Brackman, even with his step backwards this year.

        I’d only be okay with a Brackman for Dempster deal if Dempster pitches a little better over the next month and Colon/Hughes both somehow fail to make it back and are lost for the year.

        • Preston

          Is it really just a step back? If they still envisioned him as a starter wouldn’t he still be in the rotation? I think the Yanks view him as a talented bull-pen arm at this point.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Cashman has said that the move to the pen is a kick in the butt, like what they did with him last year. He’s still viewed as a starter.

            And even if he is only a bullpen arm long-term, he still has potential to be an elite bullpen arm. I don’t want to give up Brackman the future starter or Brackman the future reliever for Ryan Dempster and his marginal upgrade and phat player option.

            • Preston

              Yes I think he still has the ability to be an elite bull-pen arm and I’m rooting for him to turn it around and be a starter. I have no interest in trading him for Dempster either. My point is why would the Cubs trade a guy of Dempster’s caliber for a trade package centered around a guy who’s probably going to be in the pen.

  • Jorge

    Better mid-season pick-ups: Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon.

    Just say no to Ryan Dempster.

    • Preston


      • guest


  • FIPster Doofus

    Dempster has a $14M player option for 2012 in his contract, and player options are alwaysbad news because the team has zero control over what happens.

    Do not want.

  • Official Member of the Bartolo Colon Fan Club

    I didn’t think he’d be good, but after reading this, i’d say if hughes and/or bart can’t come back he’s worth at least kicking the tires on.

  • Elmgrovegnome

    I wonder what if any input Larry Rothschilds has in these trade possibilities.

    Could he convince someone that he can have Dempster pitching well in three weeks? Or even Ted Lily for that matter?

  • Drew

    I’ll pass on any career National League guy. The Yankees always get the poop end of the stick when they go out and get those type of pitchers, and that player option is ridiculous. It’s way too early and the standings are close out in the AL West but I’d love for them to go out and try and get Weaver or Haren if the Angels fall out of it. It would be really difficult to get Weaver but he’s approaching free agency so you can’t say it’s impossible. Haren is probably more likely, and Cashman can attone for last seasons blunder and actually acquire him.

  • Steviedatsun

    The Yankees move should be to zero in on j.a.happ, a young lefty having a bad year for the astros

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Happ’s not a free agent until after 2014. Why on earth would the Astros sell low on a lefty starter they have under team control at cheap rates for three more years after this one?

    • Mike Axisa

      He’s having a bad year because he’s bad. Walks a lot of guys, allows a ton of fly balls. Always has, always will.

      • Sayid J

        But at what point do we look at a guy who has significantly outperformed his FIP for nearly 400 innings across several seasons and determine that perhaps he just consistently outperforms his FIP?

        He certaintly wouldn’t be the first guy with a high walk rate and fly ball rate to succeed by striking out a lot of guys. Not that it’s common either, but I can’t possibly look at his numbers and say he’s bad. Lucky? Unsustainable? Even those can be debated. But not bad.

        • Sayid J

          Scherzer, Hellickson, Latos and Bud Norris are among the names of pitchers with GB% under 40% and BB/9 > 3 who have succeeded this year with a healthy dose of strikeouts. Not that I think Happ matches up with any of those players in long term potential, but Happ certainly wouldn’t be the first young pitcherto outperform his FIP because of especially high walk rates only to improve his control as he matured.

          • Mister Delaware

            Strikeout Percentage
            Norris: 24.7%
            Latos: 21.3%
            Scherzer: 20.5%
            Happ: 18.9%
            Hellickson: 15.8%

            Back out strikeouts of opposing pitchers and Happ is at 15.7% with a 53/40 SO/BB (he’s 59% with a 16/0 in 27 PAs versus pitchers). Do the same to Latos and he’s still at 19.8%. Hellickson is the only real good comp here, I’d say.

          • Mister Delaware

            Freddy Garcia actually has much better GB and BB rates plus a 16.8% SO% so he might be a really good (bad) comp for what could be expected of Happ in the AL.

  • nsalem


    • jsbrendog


  • theyankeewarrior

    If we have to give up value for a starter, then that starter needs to pass the “can he pitch to the Red Sox lineup at Fenway” test.

    Ryan Dempster can’t.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      We should sign A.J. Burnett, that guy always kills the Sox.


      • CC’s third leg

        He won game 2 in the 2009 WS.

        CC sucked in the WS

        • Thomas

          He won one game. Also CC’s ERA in the 2009 WS is 3.29 and Burnett’s is 7.00.

          • Cris Pengiuci

            Yeah, but teh wins!

  • Kosmo

    The only Cubs pitcher that appeals to me is Sean Marshall. A very good loogy.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Depends on the price but I might do it considering he is a type A. But then again it looks like they get those safe reaches so it shouldn’t matter at all.

  • Jim

    Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly are all I have seen in the media. May be, just may be they were scouting Matt Garza, who is a proven pitcher in the AL East. I don’t get why no one else has mentioned him.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Because the Cubs are even less likely to trade Garza than they are Dempster, Lilly, or Zambrano. Garza’s not untouchable, but he’s damn close to it. The Cubs just used two good prospects to get Garza, and he’s young(ish) and under team control for a few more seasons.

      It’s like the J.A. Happ suggestion earlier: the reason nobody is talking about “Why aren’t the Yankees pursuing J.A. Happ?” is because the Astros have no interest whatsoever in moving J.A. Happ.

      Garza isn’t going to be part of their fire sale, he’s going to be extended and built around.

      You can’t buy what somebody isn’t selling.

    • FIPster Doofus

      The Cubs gave up a lot to get Garza a short while ago and thus would want a lot in return for him.

      • Jim

        He has been ijured and so-so for the team all year. Great strikeout numbers, but nothing special otherwise. Doesn’t he have one more year of arb left? I could totally see them shipping him off for a decent package. I think they understand that shipping off the expensive guys and building around Castro should be the top priority. Garza should be pretty damn expensive next year for a team rebuilding.

        • Sayid J

          Considering Garza is making under $6M this year, you can expect that he will still be making under $10M next year to provide 200+ quality innings. Even a rebuilding team needs guys like this. Not to mention $8M for what Garza will provide is not at all expensive.

          • Sayid J

            On top of that, Garza has made 12 starts this year, and has made 30+ starts every year since 2008. Not as if he is injury prone. Also, his FIP of <3.00 and his past track record suggests that his numbers will improve as the season progresses. Of course, they could always trade him, but it wouldn't be in order to sell off an expensive, underperforming part of the team, it would be because some team gave up several legitimate prospets to acquire him.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Is Warren a callup possibility? He’s been good at SWB.

    • CC’s third leg

      based on what ive heard, he doesnt have real putaway stuff

    • Preston

      Yes, I’m not really worried about our rotation yet. CC is a rock, AJ and Nova have been as good as can be expected and Sweaty Freddy is still getting by. We have Colon and Hughes coming back and after the Brian Gordon experiment fails we have Noesi, Phelps and Warren who all look like solid back end options.

      A post-season rotation of a healthy CC, Bartolo, AJ and Phil sounds pretty formidable to me at this point. So before we go mortgaging our future or wasting money on guys like Dempster let’s make sure that one or more of those guys will not be there October.

  • Jim


    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder
    • Pat D

      I wouldn’t want Garza anyway, because he’s a proven douche.

      I suspect his powers come from his chin pubes and he wouldn’t be allowed to sport those insults to facial hair in The Bronx.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Maybe we need more douches. That’s why we keep losing to Boston, they way out-douche us every time.

    • SEC

      what would it take to get Garza?

  • BGrider85

    I’m hoping the Angels fall apart and listen to offers (ransom demands) on Weaver. He’s a Boras client, the Angels have had no such luck with those guys, and they could demand and get a boatload of prospects. That way they get a lot of value for him instead of seeing him walk to FA.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      As a Boras client, perhaps we should just wait and pay him straight cash, homey.

      • BGrider85

        True but depending on what happens with CC’s opt out clause, it may be more beneficial to trade. I’m not 100% on when he’s a free agent. If it’s this season sure pay him. But if it’s after 2012, I’d say trade for him. Signing 2 pitchers to 9 figure deals in the same off season may be a little much

  • CMP

    To me, this all comes down to the cost in players.

    If the Cubs, who are in reported financial distress, want to dump his salary to make a run at Pujols or Fielder next year (assuming they think he’s gonna pick up his option) and are willing to trade him as a salary dump for something like Mitchell, Melky Mesa and Laird then I’d be all for it, 2012 option and all.

    I’m just not sure that he would be a big enough upgrade moving to the AL east over what they already have that I’d be willing to trade any real high ceiling prospects for him. I certainly would be completely against offering a package like they gave the Braves for Javy.

    Hopefully Hughes and Colon will be able to make a few starts before the trade deadline so they Yankees can get a better idea of exactly where they stand.

  • Dave

    Dempster is not better than the 2011 Freddy Garcia. It’s not even close. Pass.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    If a trade with the Cubs is contemplated you should trade for Matt Garza who can at least beat the Red Sox. I doubt the Cubbies will trade him but its worth a try.