Ryan Dempster is one of the few left who remembers what it was like when the Cubs were contenders and Wrigley Field was the place to be.
Those back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008 seem like a very long time ago. There will be many new faces in the clubhouse when pitchers and catchers report to Arizona next week.
Theo Epsteins front office is searching to find the next generation of core players. Dempster will turn 35 in May and make 14 million in his walk year. Its uncertain whether hell fit into the next window of opportunity.
Beyond this season, what does the future hold for Dempster?
Ive thought about that a lot, he said Thursday on Sirius XMs MLB Network Radio. As you get older and you get near the end of contracts, you kind of wonder. But at the same time, when I signed on with the Cubs my first time, I was hurt and I had a chance (to) sit there on the bench and kind of watch it all play out in 2004. (Ive) had a couple different opportunities to sign back and Ive always thought I want to be here and win.
The Opening Day starter looked lost last April (9.58 ERA in six starts) and the Cubs never recovered, triggering change throughout the organization. Dempster did manage to reach 200 innings for the fourth straight season and finish at 10-14 with a 4.80 ERA.
Dempster, who has no-trade rights, became close with former general manager Jim Hendry, and he enjoys a good relationship with ownership. The young pitchers look up to Dempster, whos also active in the community with his foundation.
But both sides will have to make cold calculations, and Epstein doesnt appear to be too concerned with sentiment. Seemingly every move this winter was designed to find value, young players under club control, with an eye toward 2014 and beyond.
Ive never quit anything in my life and I dont want to quit it now, Dempster said. I want to be there when were winning and were winning on a consistent basis and most importantly when were winning a World Series. If that means youre fighting through some tough times, sometimes that makes it more gratifying in the end.
Im looking forward to, hopefully, staying in Chicago the rest of my career and being a Cub and (helping bring) a World Series to (a) city that deserves it so much now on the North Side.