After what seemed like a lifetime of speculation – and at least one failed deal – the Chicago Cubs dealt right-hander Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers, in exchange for prospects Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks.
I’ve already covered what the acquiring team – now known to be the Rangers – should expect from Dempster so I won’t get into too much detail. Basically, he’s been pretty lucky so far, sporting a sparkling 2.25 ERA and solid peripherals – 7.18 K/9 and 2.34 BB/9 – but some of his underlying numbers, particularly his Left on Base Percentage and Batting Average on Balls in Play, cause reason for concern.
Historically – and we’re talking about a 14+ year sample size here – Dempster’s LOB% has hovered right around the league average mark, at 72.2%. This season, however, it’s nearly 12 percentage points higher. And his BABIP, which also has proven to hover right around the league average, at .301, is nearly 60 points lower. He’s been quite lucky and his Skill-Independent ERA, or SIERA, the most advanced of all ERA estimators, is near the league median, at 3.84.
But given his recent success over the past few years, there’s really no reason to think that he can’t be worth a full win for the Rangers, and his presence alone should help ease the struggles of Roy Oswalt too.
For the Cubs, the key piece is third baseman Christian Villanueva, who, despite a smallish frame – 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds – shows solid or better tools across the board. Recently turned 21, Villanueva’s hitting .285/.356/.421 in his first season in High-A, with 10 homeruns and nine stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, has been 11% better than the league average.
Villanueva has above-average speed – he swiped 32 bags in 38 tries last season – but has only stolen nine in 18 attempts this season and has above-average power. If there is cause for concern it’s his walk rate this season (5.6%). Also, he’s been plunked 20 times this year and you have to worry that it might eventually catch up with him.
Hendricks failed to make Texas’ top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. He sports a below-average fastball that, according to various reports rarely touches 90, but he’s shown a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio, at 7.47 K/BB. He polished and hasn’t shown any major signs of benefiting from luck this season, so it’s quite possible that he could fill out the backend of a rotation. And his more-than-solid numbers in High-A so far – 130.2 IP, 7.71K/9, 1.03 BB/9, 2.82 ERA, and 2.76 FIP – it would be a prudent move on the Cubs’ part to push him up to Double-A.
This deal represents a possible win-win for both clubs, Dempster only strengthens a decent rotation that’s been hampered by injuries all season, and both Villanueva and Hendricks strengthen a weak Cubs system.
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