Dempster's value to Cubs goes beyond field

At first take, the Chicago Cubs should be elated that Ryan Dempster chose to pick up his $14 million option for 2012.

Looking at Dempster’s 2011 season, you might not think that a 10-14 record with a 4.80 ERA warrants that big of a deal. But looking at his contract objectively, Dempster certainly earned the 2012 option.

The Cubs right-hander put in four solid years of answering the bell when his spot in the rotation came up, pitching more than 200 innings in each of those seasons. That accomplishment alone might be satisfactory for most teams, however the British Columbia native brings so much more as a leader, teammate and human being.

Dempster and his wife Jenny have raised millions of dollars for research into a cure for DiGeorge Syndrome, a disease that affects their oldest daughter and the affable Canadian has time for everyone else’s charity events as well.

Pitchers are seldom team leaders but Dempster’s ability to communicate and show appreciation for his teammates transcends the fact that he only pitches in 35 games a year.

Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd is among Dempster’s fans.

“Dempster’s a bulldog,” Byrd said Saturday on ESPN 1000’s “Talkin’ Baseball.” “He’s a guy that, when he’s on the mound, you always know you have a chance to win. And he’s going to go out there and give you everything he has.”

With only Matt Garza penciled in as a starter in 2012, Dempster’s return will soften the workload for incoming president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer as they pursue some good young starting pitching to add to the mix on a team that had the worst ERA in the National League last season.

Dempster has been a consummate team guy, posting a record of 58-44 as a starter after saving 87 games in three years as the team’s closer from 2005-07.

Dempster is on record that he’d like to sit down and talk to Epstein and Hoyer about his future in the weeks ahead. That’s good news for them, as well as for the Cubs fan base, which has grown to appreciate Dempster as one of their own.