ST. LOUIS Ryan Dempster showed up for work and went through his day-after routine, preparing for his next start, wherever that might be.
Across Twitter and cyberspace on Saturday what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer jokingly called a little bit of a parallel universe the buzz centered around where Dempster might be traded.
Dempsters start on Friday night had helped draw the scouts to Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals ended his scoreless-innings streak at 33. Multiple national reports had the Los Angeles Dodgers backing off their pursuit, with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the mix, and the Cardinals mentioned, though its difficult to see a deal getting done there.
This much is clear about Dempsters position: He would only go somewhere he could win a World Series ring, and the final decision will be his, because he has the hammer of 10-and-5 no-trade rights.
Dempster is 35 years old and positioned to become a free agent at seasons end. There were doubts after a 2011 season that was bookended by a slow start (9.08 ERA through six starts) and a bad finish (0-6 with a 5.44 ERA).
Dempster woke up on Saturday with a 2.11 ERA that was tied for the major-league lead with White Sox phenom Chris Sale. Could Dempster have a future in Chicago beyond 2012?
I would never close the door on that at all, Hoyer said. Hes had a great year for us. Look at his track record as a starter with the Cubs. He had a hiccup last year, but he still threw 200 innings. Prior to that, he had three consecutive good years, including a great year in 08.
Hes a leader in the clubhouse and a terrific guy to have around, and its fun to see a guy like him bounce back after that kind of year. People were questioning him, and I think hes proven a lot of people wrong.
We would never close the door on that at all, no matter what happens here at the end of July. Hes a guy thats always welcome in a Cubs uniform, for sure.
Dempster builds bridges in the clubhouse, invites young players to train with him in the offseason and sets a tone for the entire pitching staff. Manager Dale Sveum knows how much harder his job would be without Dempsters presence.
You cant deny that (a trade) wouldnt help the clubhouse, Sveum said. Its only going to take away from the clubhouse, the atmosphere. The leadership role (and) the work ethic and all that you dont replace the whole package.
Dempster is making 14 million this season. The Cubs wont value him that much at that price. He could have the chance to showcase himself in the postseason and cash in for one last big contract.
A new front office went back and forth with Kerry Wood last winter before finally announcing a one-year, 3 million deal at the Cubs Convention. By the middle of May, Wood realized he couldnt be counted on out of the bullpen and decided to retire.
Its not easy negotiating with fan favorites and putting a value on intangibles.
You dont want to do it for sentimental reasons, Hoyer said. You want it to be for baseball reasons. Maybe some of that stuff creeps in the leadership, the experience in the market. I think Kerry had a really good year in (2011). It didnt work out. Sometimes the end comes when you dont expect it.
But you want it to be about baseball first, and I think the players want it to be about baseball first, because they dont want to be hanging around for the wrong reasons. They want to be here because theyre good players and still wanted.