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Insider

Breaking down the Ryan Dempster deal

7/31/2012

After much speculation, Ryan Dempster was finally traded just moments before the trade deadline. In the end, he was sent to the Texas Rangers, and the Chicago Cubs received prospects Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks in exchange.

Dempster could easily be worth two wins to Texas through the end of the season over what the Rangers would have gotten from the shattered remains of Roy Oswalt, which are being vacuumed off the Ballpark at Arlington mound as I write. That said, Dempster has been extremely lucky this season in several areas that are not actual skills, from a .245 batting average on balls in play to an extraordinarily high strand rate, and he has the worst ground ball rate of his career.

However, he has two strong offspeed weapons in a mid-80s slider that he throws for strikes (and throws quite often) and a low-80s splitter that functions like a hard changeup with some late tumble to keep hitters from elevating it. He's good enough to start a playoff game for Texas, but I don't think he's the No. 1 starter for which many Rangers fans were clamoring -- even though the team is four games up in the loss column and didn't need to pay that kind of price.

The Cubs' leverage to move Dempster was limited by his 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any potential trade, and his impending free agency, so acquiring a solid prospect in Villanueva is a reasonable return. A third baseman, Villanueva was hopelessly blocked in the Rangers' organization, where Mike Olt can't even find a place to play because of Adrian Beltre, but he does have major league potential as a plus defender with doubles power. He's a below-average runner and is not patient, which means he'll fit right in with most of the Cubs' other offensive prospects. He turned 21 in June and put up a .285/.356/.421 line this year for high Class A Myrtle Beach, which has one of the toughest parks for hitters in the minors.

Hendricks is more of an organizational starter, 87-89 mph with an average cutter and changeup and below-average curveball but good command and a repeatable delivery and arm action. The right-hander could surface as a fifth starter, but his stuff is probably too fringy for that.

The Cubs' haul from the trades of Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto over the past few days netted one major prospect in Arodys Vizcaino, who once healthy will be the best pitching prospect in their system, as well as a solid quantity of organizational prospect depth. They also still have Matt Garza, a valuable trade asset because he's both effective and under control for 2013, and who should return at least one above-average prospect in a trade this offseason.