Feelings cordial as Dempster saga ends

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
8:55
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer remained cordial to the end Tuesday, playing out the last hour of the non-waiver trade deadline together in the Chicago Cubs’ executive offices.

[+] EnlargeRyan Dempster
Jerry Lai/US PresswireRyan Dempster denied the Cubs the best possible return for him in a trade by declining a deal to Atlanta.

By “together” that means that Dempster was mostly watching trade coverage on television while Epstein and Hoyer worked the phones, but there was no apparent outward animosity as the trade drama came to a close.

It could have been much different after Dempster vetoed a trade to the Atlanta Braves last week and cost the Cubs a chance to add highly-regarded pitcher Randall Delgado to the mix.

By declining to go to Atlanta, Dempster denied Epstein and Hoyer the best possible return on a trade and essentially denied the front-office duo the ability to do their job to the fullest. It also had the Cubs’ front office still dealing with all things Dempster at the deadline instead of working on other potential deals.

And while true feelings may never be known, neither camp shunned the other as Tuesday’s deadline approached. Dempster joined the members of the front office as the closing moments drew near to make sure everybody was on the same page at most critical time.

“It was actually funny,” Hoyer said less than an hour after the deadline passed. “At one point he was actually in my office, literally. I said ‘Let’s just find a different office.’ I think this would be a little awkward if he was on my couch watching my TV while I took phone calls.

“We found him an office that was open and he said as long as it had a TV he was good to go. But again, it goes back to the relationship. I don’t think that would have happened if there was any kind of animosity.”

There was no deal available Tuesday to match the talent of Delgado, but with Dempster on hand the Cubs were able to grab a slightly better trade package in the 11th hour. The Cubs received Single-A players Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks in the trade, obviously better than what they would have received in deals with the Dodgers and Yankees.

“He held pretty firm on the Dodgers thing,” Hoyer said. “I was actually really glad he was in our office for the last couple of hours and he was able to sort of see how we work and see what happens. He sort of sat in an office and watched himself on TV.

“Then we sort of briefed him on where we were and I don’t remember exactly what time but at some point he said OK, if this Dodgers thing isn’t going to work then he was willing to open it up to a handful of teams. That’s why it came together late.”

Dempster joked that he was only in the team’s new office location to check out the new Golden Tee video game in the break room. But both sides clearly worked together until the deadline passed.

“They wished me good luck and gave me a chance to go to a winner and I'm really thankful for that opportunity,” Dempster said. “And they bettered the organization getting some prospects back for that and hopefully that's good for the long run for the Chicago Cubs.”

Things might not have been so heavenly last week. Dempster woke from a nap in Pittsburgh to find reports that he had been dealt to the Braves and used his foundation’s Twitter account to announce there was no trade.

It left Hoyer and Epstein in a tough spot, but no matter how much frustration might have boiled over then, a mutual respect seemed to always remain.

“There were a lot of conversations; it’s hard,” Hoyer said when asked if both sides ever needed to clear the air. “I think he felt that he had a place he wanted to go. He knew what he wanted. He wasn’t unprepared to make the (Braves) decision but when the decision came and the finality of it I think he wanted to wait a little longer and explore his options.

“There were a lot of conversations and he indicated that the communication with the front office was good. We tried to (communicate). We wouldn’t be doing our job and we wouldn’t have been fair to Atlanta if we weren’t in some sort of constantly in contact with Ryan.”

Things could have been worse. And while underlying friction might still exist, everybody found a way to work through it.

“With Ryan certainly this was an unusual situation over the last 10 days or so,” Hoyer said. “But I think you all know his personality. He was sitting in our office and there has never been any personal animosity. I think between Theo and Ryan and me it has always been really amicable. He’s a great guy.

“There is a reason he is a fan favorite here and that’s the reason we would always welcome him back here. I give him credit, last year was a down year for him and a difficult year for him. What he has done this year has been phenomenal. I give him a lot of credit bouncing back and having a great year.”

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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