CHICAGO -- After pitching six shutout innings Saturday to extend his scoreless innings streak to 33, Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster could not avoid questions about his seemingly inevitable departure from the organization.
With a little more than two weeks until baseball's trade deadline, 10 teams have shown legitimate interest in acquiring Dempster's services for the rest of the season, according to industry sources. Those clubs include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves.
The Cubs have started, in earnest, to look at minor league players at the lower levels of almost every farm system. The organization is looking for young pitching in return for its veteran players, but, according to a baseball source who has inquired about trading with the Cubs, a well regarded third-base prospect is also very high on their wish list.
While Dempster's entire body of work this season has made him a valuable commodity, Saturday's start, which resulted in a 4-1 Cubs victory over Arizona, proved he can get hitters out without having his best command or arsenal of pitches.
"You see a guy like that struggle with command and pace, at the same time get all the important outs," said an American League scout. "Dempster makes it easy for me to call my GM and say 'get this guy now because he has such a great sense of how to get the job done (and) he will help you win each time he goes out there.'"
As ESPNChicago.com previously reported, a major league source has indicated that an agreement between Theo Epstein and Dempster in a meeting that took place in early June assures the pitcher control of where he will play the rest of the season if he is traded. Dempster has 10-5 rights that allow him to veto any trade.
After nearly nine seasons in Chicago, Saturday's start felt like the end of an era at Wrigley. Dempster, however, tried to approach it like any other outing.
"I really did not think of it that way, but there is that thought and that possibility (of a trade)," Dempster said. "At the same time, you kind of stay in the moment of pitching in the game."
Teammates are aware that the affable team leader could be heading elsewhere very soon.
"He was one of those guys that really helped me out when I came up to the big leagues," said second baseman Darwin Barney. "He is a leader and just a great guy to be around. When he is not throwing, he is always helping the team out because he is easy going and he is happy and he has a lot of fun. He is just that guy that would be tough to lose."
With Saturday's win, Dempster improved to 5-3 on the season. His 1.86 ERA ranks as the lowest in the National League while his 1.02 WHIP is the NL's third best. Dempster's next scheduled start is this coming Friday in St. Louis.
The Cubs must make an educated guess as to the timing of a deal. A team can wait too long sometimes and that can change the essence of a trade by trying to get too much in return.
Off the record, some teammates have said they are assuming that Dempster will come back as a free agent after the 2012 season. Knowing Dempster’s attachment to the Cubs and the city of Chicago, coming back next season is probably the thought process that is getting him through these next few weeks.