It went right down to the wire, and, with less than 10 minutes left before the non-waiver trade deadline was due to pass, it appeared that the Rangers were not going to land anyone ... but the deadline ends at 3:00 p.m. CDT and not before, and, at 2:58 p.m. CDT, ESPN.com's Buster Olney was the first to tweet the news that the Rangers had acquired Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster. Since that point, the return coming back from the Rangers to the Cubs has been announced as consisting of High-A Myrtle Beach third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
This trade effectively brings Dempster's career full circle, as the Rangers selected him with their third-round selection in the 1995 amateur draft, and moved him to the Marlins one year later -- along with a young Rick Helling -- in a waiver-period deal for John Burkett. He has since enjoyed a 15-year major league career, logging five seasons with the Marlins and two more years with the Reds before pitching his last nine seasons with the Cubs, and has enjoyed a career 2012 season, posting a monster 177 ERA+ -- albeit with somewhat less impressive peripherals that wouldn't seem to support such an extreme degree of run prevention going forward -- in 100-plus innings. Here, in fact, are his last five seasons and career statistical averages:
I don't think this is a game-changing acquisition, because, as I already stated above, Dempster's peripherals don't augur well for him sustaining this degree of run prevention going forward -- but I do view this as a nice acquisition, in that the Rangers are obtaining a healthy, stable mid-rotation arm for the stretch run, or somebody that should reduce the variance in the expected performance of the starting rotation as we move forward. He has pitched like a three- to four-win asset over the last five years, and while I don't know that he's as good as Colby Lewis was before he succumbed to a torn flexor tendon, he's a pretty reasonable facsimile thereof.
As far as the acquisition cost is concerned, Hendricks and Villaneuva are both solid, but not spectacular prospects -- Hendricks, 22, was the club's eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Dartmouth, and after being deemed one of the 20 best prospects in the Northwest League last year by Baseball America, he had enjoyed a strong 2012 campaign at Myrtle Beach (130.2 IP, 2.82 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 1.0 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9). Jason Cole lauded his pitchability, intelligence, and composure on the bump in his scouting report on Hendricks back in January, but also indicated that he was more of a lower-ceiling, higher-floor type -- that is, a polished product who could advance quickly through the bottom rungs of the system, but might encounter more difficulty as he moved up into the higher ranks of pro ball.
Villaneuva, 21, earned recognition as Baseball America's 100th-best pre-season prospect going into 2012, and has fared comparatively well at Myrtle Beach thus far this season, going .285/.356/.421 after his breakout campaign at Low-A Hickory last season. The skill set isn't elite, but he showcases decent hit/power tools, along with an above-average defensive projection at third base and high-quality makeup that portends well for his chances of fulfilling his ultimate upside as an offensively solid, defensively above-average major league third baseman. Like Hendricks, though, you're talking about a good, but certainly not great prospect in the near term; I'm inclined to think Villanueva has more long-term bite-you-in-the-ass potential, but I don't believe that potential is so immense that it should have put off the Rangers from pulling the trigger on this deal.
The remaining prorated obligation on Dempster's $14 million salary for the remainder of this season is roughly $5.3 million, and there's no immediate word of the Cubs sending over a cash subsidy to help cover any portion of that. If that proves to be the case, then I think you look at this as a trade that really does cut pretty fairly both ways, that imparts real benefit to both teams -- the Rangers get their veteran, mid-rotation stabilizer (albeit while praying that nothing goes awry in his transition to a tougher league/ballpark), and the Cubs receive a couple of nice young assets who stand fairly decent chances of contributing at the major league level at some point down the line and contributing chunks of cheap surplus value.
I'm not ecstatic about this deal to the extent that I think it's a monster win for the Rangers, but I do like it on the whole, and I'm glad that this got done just under the wire.