Dempster-Epstein chat fuels speculation

CHICAGO -- So far, the only changes coming with Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster have to do with his next start, although on Wednesday afternoon it looked like it could be more than that.

After Dempster was viewed in full uniform during early batting practice chatting with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, while both were seated in the stands, early speculation centered on trade talk.

The subject of their discussion remains unknown, although the Cubs announced that Dempster’s next start will be moved from Saturday to Friday to keep him pitching every fifth day. To accommodate the move, Jeff Samardzija’s next start will be moved back a day to Saturday, giving him a full week between outings.

Manager Dale Sveum said the move was done to keep Dempster on schedule since he is pitching well and to give Samardzija a breather after he was roughed up this past weekend in Minnesota. The Cubs are also lining up their rotation for matchup purposes down the road in series against the White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks next week.

How much longer Dempster remains in the starting rotation is in doubt. His name comes up most often in trade speculation.

As a player with 10 years of experience and the last five with the same team, Dempster has the right to veto any deal. It’s possible Dempster and Epstein were clearing the air on what teams the pitcher would agree to be traded to but that is purely speculation.

Speculation, though, tends to run rampant this time of the year leading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“It’s one of those things that comes up every year for every team whether you’re contending or not contending and if you have valuable players it’s going to come up,” Sveum said. “It’s just the way it is. The players know that. You talk to them individually.

“Some guys maybe haven’t had their name out there before and all of a sudden it’s out there. So it becomes sometimes a distraction to players and sometimes they understand this happens every year. It’s nothing that hasn’t happened in the history of baseball, it’s just when you’re in these situations your names are going to come up quite a bit.”