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SportsMonday: Rough Trade

I usually wouldn't support trading Ryan Dempster. But in this case an exception must be made. Don't screw it up Theo!

In general, I am skeptical of trades in which the team I care about ships out a major leaguer who has proven himself - especially in pressure situations - for prospects who have only proven that they have potential.

So while pundits have enjoyed ripping Jim Hendry for the big package he gave up for Matt Garza last year, I'd rather have the proven player than hope that a prospect someday grows up to be as good as the guy you've just given up.

In Garza's case, the conventional wisdom has been that the four prospects (plus Sam Fuld) were too good to give up - and that Chris Archer in particular was a future big-time big-league starter. And he may yet achieve that status. Garza is already there.

(Archer was "good not great" earlier this season in his first major league starts. He took a couple losses for the Rays but his ERA was under 4.00 and perhaps most impressively, he struck out 14 in 11.2 innings of work. The pitcher then was shipped back to Triple A where he was most recently seen leaving a game early because of a strained oblique.)

Garza, 28, obviously had a rough first half of this season. But there is plenty of reason to believe - looking back at his history as a pitcher - that the former American League Divisional Series MVP will find his groove again at some point soon and give the Cubs plenty of good pitching in the future. More reason to believe than the hope a prospect can deliver.

Dempster's case is different, though. First, he's a free agent after the season. If you don't trade him you either lay out the dough to re-sign him or lose him for nothing, save a compensatory draft pick. Certainly a package of prospects looks attractive given those alternatives and the Cubs' apparent plan not to compete for another couple of years. Dempster, after all, is 35.

If the Cubs really wanted to keep him, though - veteran leadership and all - they could trade him and re-sign him back in the offseason. This possibility could negatively impact his trade value, but not necessarily. At least a few of the teams who could be pursuing him before the trade deadline at the end of this month could value payroll flexibility at the end of the season almost as much as having an aging pitcher signed for another couple of years - i.e., Dempster being a free agent at the end of the year could be a good thing.

Age and all, though, It isn't hard to argue that Dempster has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball this summer. His 1.99 ERA is second only to Jered Weaver's 1.96.

Trading Dempster seems to be Job 1 on Theo's agenda now that the draft has come and gone and Anthony Rizzo has finally been called up. Trading Garza may be Job 2, but it's nowhere near as clear that it's the right move.

Williams World
If the season ended today, would Kenny Williams be the executive of the year?

Folks who live in Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh may not think so, but he's at least in the conversation.

On the other hand, it's really the moves that Williams made in the past - trading for Jake Peavy, signing Adam Dunn, drafting Chris Sale - that are paying off now.

So for now let's name him the slow-motion executive of the year.

If he does something dramatic before the trade deadline, we'll upgrade his status.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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