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Red Sox in ‘Aggressive’ Pursuit of Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

With the July 31st trade deadline approaching in a few weeks, the rumors of the baseball trade market will rapidly heat up, and the Red Sox will need to define themselves as buyers or sellers towards competing in the 2012 season. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Sox are looking to add Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who would give an immediate boost to the inconsistent rotation.

Dempster a Potential Rotation Boost

Dempster has been a huge success this year, holding just a 5-3 record despite a 1.86 ERA for the struggling Cubs team. It appears very likely Chicago will deal both him and Matt Garza by the deadline as the team attempts to rebuild for the future, and it’s no surprise the Sox have interest in Dempster, who has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last four seasons.

If Dempster is traded to Boston, there would be questions about both his health and ability to pitch in the American League East. He has had his share of trips to the disabled list, including spending a couple weeks on the DL earlier this year because of tightness in his right shoulder. He has also spent his entire 15-year career in the National League. His current contract expires at the end of this season so unless he signed an extension with the team that trades for him, he’d essentially be a rental over the last couple months.

Adding Dempster to the Sox rotation immediately adds to the quality of the staff. With the exception of Franklin Morales, who has made just five starts this year, all Sox starters have ERA’s above 4.00. Assuming that Jon Lester and Josh Beckett pitch much better in the second half of the year and remain the front two in the rotation, Dempster makes for an excellent third starter with Clay Buchholz and either Felix Doubront or Morales filling the fifth spot. Aaron Cook has been solid in his four starts, but it’s likely he’s the odd man out if Boston adds a starter. Morales could also be a strong candidate to return to the bullpen.

Making a Deal

Trading for Dempster could be a very complicated process for the team. The Chicago Cubs are led by former Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who knows more than almost anyone about the Sox farm system. At the same time, his former prospects might be appealing for him to add to the rebuilding Cubs at the right price. For example, a potential deal for Dempster could potentially be centered around someone like the struggling Daniel Bard, whose trade value is likely minimal to most other organizations. Additionally, the teams would have to negotiate how to handle the $13.5 million the pitcher is due this season.

Whether Dempster is the answer or not to ‘fix’ the Red Sox this year remains to be seen, but considering he’s a rental player at the age of 35, he certainly won’t be too expensive of an impact pitcher to acquire. Despite a rumored ten teams interested in the pitcher, the Sox should remain in contention for pulling the trigger on the deal right up until the deadline.

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