Will Dempster pick up his 2012 option?

SAN DIEGO -- One of the longest tenured veterans on the Chicago Cubs, starter Ryan Dempster will have some difficult decisions to make in the near future.

After he pitches in Wednesday’s season finale against the San Diego Padres, Dempster will have to decide if he wants to stay with the Cubs or hit the free agent market.

Originally signing with the Cubs in January of 2004, Dempster became their closer for three years, amassing 85 saves before joining the rotation. Since 2008 he’s compiled a 53-40 record and on Wednesday he’ll likely go over the 200-innings-pitched mark for the fourth straight season.

With the roster up in the air and no general manager in place, Dempster must think about if he wants to pitch for a team that may not be competitive in 2012.

“That’s something I haven’t contemplated yet,” Dempster said. “I try to stay in the moment, preparing for my next start. That might be a better question to ask me after Wednesday. I choose to dwell on the present and deal with what I control and try to be optimistic about the future.”

On Nov. 18, 2008, Dempster signed a four-year, $44 million contract and 2012 is his option for $14 million. The likeable British Columbia native has a love affair with Chicago and Cubs fans.

Dempster also has become an important member of Chicago society. His youngest daughter, Riley, has struggled since birth with DiGeorge Syndrome, disorder which affects her ability to swallow food. She receives treatment at a local hospital, which has been instrumental in her well-being.

For the third time, Dempster has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente award. He was previously nominated in 2006 and 2008. The award is given to one player on each major league team who combines outstanding play on the field with dedicated work in the community.

Dempster is known as a great friend and teammate to the other players and if he decides to leave, he would be missed. Some industry sources believe Demspter could command a three-year, $35-40 million contract on the free agent market, even with a sub-.500 record (10-13) in 2011.

For his part, Dempster would most certainly want things to work out in Chicago.

“You know, I really love playing here and being a Chicago Cub,” Dempster said. “Hopefuly the team’s going in the right direction, and that means up. It would be nice to think next year at this time we are preparing to go to the playoffs.”

Dempster had an extremely close relationship with former GM Jim Hendry. It’s unknown how Hendry’s departure will affect Dempster’s decision about coming back.

Dempster is 112-115 with a 4.39 ERA for his career, once again telling you that raw numbers don’t always tell the essence of what a pitcher is all about.