With free agency now going and the general managers’ meetings going on in California, rumors, signings and other conjecture will now come flying fast across baseball. The Minnesota Twins stand to be one of the more active teams this off-season, with multiple starting pitchers to find and other upgrades needed on the roster if a fit can be found.
A recent report suggests the Twins have shown some interest in starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, who is one of the more recognizable names among starters on the free agent market and would provide a reliable veteran presence for any team that lands him. Could he be a good fit for the Twins?
Dempster has spent the majority of his 15-season major league career in the National League, pitching for the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. Overall he has a 124-124 record with a 4.33 ERA in 547 career games (322 starts). He has been a starter for the majority of his career, with seven 200 inning seasons under his belt, but he did have 85 saves for the Cubs from 2005-2007 before moving back into the starting rotation. He is a two-time All-Star, with his most recent selection coming in 2008 as a member of the Cubs when he set a career-high in wins (17) with a 2.96 ERA over 33 starts (206.2 innings).
Dempster had another solid season in 2012, as he went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA over 28 starts (173 innings) with the Cubs and Texas Rangers. But his first foray into pitching in the American League was not a complete success, as he went 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts (69 innings) for the Rangers after being acquired in July. But he did pitch at least six innings in eight of his starts with Texas, so that alone may make him an appealing option for the Twins.
Dempster is obviously not a young pitcher, as he will turn 36 next May, and another potential roadblock to the Twins bringing him aboard would be his asking price. He made $14 million in the final year of a four-year, $52 million deal last season, though it is fairly certain he won’t get that kind of money from anyone this winter. It is notable he does not have the typical wear and tear a pitcher his age may have due to being a closer for three years, but his age and career workload (over 2,200 major league innings) creates some risk of an eventual breakdown.
It can also be assumed Dempster would like to pitch for a contending team at this late stage of his career, and the Twins obviously have not been anywhere close to that level over the past two seasons. Some other teams that are at least closer to playoff contention may have some interest in him as well, which could easily bump the Twins toward the back of the line without a financial offer that is far above others.
I think Dempster would be a good fit for the Twins as a durable, top half of the rotation starter. But if they have to get into anything close to a bidding war for his services they should bow out and let someone else take what risk there is. If nothing else, the Twins will not have to be held in limbo if they make an offer to Dempster and he is slow to make a decision. They can confidently move on to other options in the free agent and trade market with little risk that they missed out on a potential ace.