Cubs still looking at Jake Peavy
If Dempster walks, another starter will be a necessity
By Dave van Dyck
10:12 PM CST, November 3, 2008
DANA POINT, Calif.
While the original off-season emphasis for the Cubs was on acquiring a left-handed-hitting outfielder, starting pitching is taking on more importance.
It appears the Cubs have taken a renewed interest in former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy because free agent Ryan Dempster apparently will not re-sign early.
The Cubs have exclusive rights to negotiate with Dempster until Nov. 14, and then he will be free to listen to all offers. That could be bad news for the Cubs, who would like Dempster back but may not be ready to offer as many years or as much money in this pitching-thin free agent market.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, speaking on the opening day of the GM meetings, would only say, "We've made it no secret we'd like to keep Ryan."
But he did not appear as positive it would get done soon, and one source said it was no longer a "slam dunk" that Dempster would return.
As for Peavy, who has four years and at least $63 million left on his contract with San Diego, three teams are in the running now that the Padres have announced they would trade him for the right mix of young players. The teams are believed to be the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs, although it is doubtful Peavy would be traded within the West Division.
That leaves the Cubs and Braves. And one scout said the Cubs "don't have the talent it would take."
The Padres need a young starter in return, plus other young players as they reduce payroll. The Braves have better young pitching, especially considering Jeff Samardzija's deal with the Cubs includes a no-trade clause. A source said the Cubs were offering Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie and others, but that could not be confirmed.
If Dempster were to leave and Peavy were traded to Atlanta, the Cubs might have to spend to acquire a big-time starter. The high-revenue Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers are looking for pitching too.
Dempster, who started full-time this year for the first time since 2002, went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA.
The Cubs also appear to have less confidence in re-signing closer Kerry Wood, who may also opt for complete free agency. But, according to one source, he might be an easier "early" signing than Dempster.
"The one thing you don't want to leave unprotected is quality pitching," Hendry said.
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