After predicting with a great deal of confidence for most of the season that the Rangers wouldn't be trading for a pitcher unless it was a top of the rotation caliber guy, a legit #1, I'm now writing about the Rangers trading at the deadline for Ryan Dempster. And after saying for quite some time that I didn't want the Rangers to trade for Ryan Dempster, I'm now writing about how I like the Rangers trading for Ryan Dempster.
First things first...Ryan Dempster is not a legit #1. He's not a top of the rotation starter. He's not a bad pitcher, by any means -- he's a decent mid-rotation starting pitcher. But his 2.25 ERA this season is driven by a .242 BABIP and a 84% strand rate. Dempster's FIP of 3.41 is his best since 2008 (when he also had a 3.41 FIP), with his FIP being in the high-3s the previous three years. Interestingly, Dempster's xFIP the past five years has been remarkably stable -- 3.69 in 2008, 3.76 in 2009, 3.74 in 2010, 3.70 in 2011, and 3.71 this year.
So while Dempster isn't a legit #1, he's a solid innings-eater who has been a better-than-league-average starter since moving from the bullpen back into the rotation in 2008. Depending on what Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Roy Oswalt do the rest of the way, he could be anything from your Game 1 playoff starter to your Game 4 playoff starter. But he's not a game-changer.
So after arguing that the Rangers don't need someone like Dempster for much of the season, why am I now on board with trading for him? Two reasons.
First, the Ranger rotation is looking a lot shakier now than it was two weeks ago. Colby Lewis is done for the season, and that's a pretty significant blow for the team, since Lewis was like Boxer in Animal Farm, a guy who was a horse, who made every start, who didn't get rattled, who might give up home runs but who was going to keep challenging batters and giving the Rangers innings. Watching him on the mound, I almost felt like that, when things weren't going well for Lewis, it was as if his response was, "I will work harder!"
Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt had his third disaster start in six outings for the Rangers yesterday, and Neftali Feliz's return is uncertain. If Lewis were healthy, if Oswalt were inspiring confidence, Dempster is a luxury, and maybe you don't make this trade. But with the current situation, Dempster is a good safety net.
Secondly, though, the cost to land Dempster was not nearly as onerous as I was expecting. If you'd asked me a week ago, "What if we could get Ryan Dempster for Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks?", I'd have said, well, sure, I'd do that, but there's no way Theo Epstein makes this deal. Getting Dempster wasn't worth parting with Martin Perez, or Justin Grimm plus, or Cody Buckel. For Villanueva and Hendricks, though -- two guys who are nice prospects, but who are not high ceiling prospects, who aren't really among the Rangers' top 10 or so prospects at this point? Particularly with Oakland having made a deal with the devil and Anaheim getting Zack Greinke. Sign me up.