After more than a week of flirtation with the Dodgers, a brief fling with the Braves, and then some footsie with the Yankees, Ryan Dempster has been traded. To the Rangers. In exchange, the Cubs get third baseman Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks.
There were rumblings this morning that the Rangers were involved, but many figured that it was simply a matter of the Cubs trying to leverage Dempster’s first choice — the Dodgers — into paying what they want. That didn’t happen, however, and late this afternoon word came down that Dempster had given approval for a trade to either the Dodgers, the Yankees or the Rangers. And Jon Daniels sealed the deal.
Villanueva is only 21 years-old. He’s hitting .285/.356/.421 with ten homers for high-A Myrtle Beach. His teammate, Hendricks, is 5-8 with a 2.82 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 130.2 innings with only 15 walks. He’ll turn 23 in December.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.