Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Cubs starter Ryan Dempster has been placed on the disabled list with right lat tightness, which will delay the inevitable trade of the right-hander for at least 15 days.
No, Dempster didn't suffer the injury in his haste to pack his suitcase and escape Chicago as quickly as possible; he's been pitching through pain for several starts.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Dempster said he felt the latissimus dorsi muscle pull in a June 5 start against the Brewers, and "it got harder and harder to get loose and maintain."
That news makes his recent success all the more amazing. In his last three starts, including the one at Milwaukee on June 5, Dempster is 3-0 with a spotless ERA and a minuscule 0.64 WHIP. On the season, the Cubs right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 81 innings, which has made him very appealing to contenders as the Cubs prepare for a mid-season fire sale.
Unfortunately for Dempster, he now has just one more win than disabled list stints this season, as he also spent time on the sidelines in April with a quadriceps injury. The right-hander will have to re-establish his health when he returns, but he still is a sure bet to be dealt prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
Since we always want to be forward thinking in fantasy sports, let's take a look at some potential landing spots for Dempster, as his fantasy value will certainly be impacted depending on where he ends up.
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers have been linked to Dempster in multiple reports. Fantasy owners can only hope the right-hander is sporting Dodger Blue come July. Dempster is 2-1 with a 1.06 ERA in six road starts this season, and Dodger Stadium is the seventh most favorable park for pitchers in 2012, according to MLB Park Factors. Los Angeles also has a history of hitting on deadline deals for starting pitchers with the Cubs. In 2006, Greg Maddux went 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 12 starts after the Dodgers picked him up from Chicago and in 2010, Ted Lilly went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 12 starts after a similar trade with the Cubs. As an added bonus, Los Angeles ranks seventh in baseball with a 13.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).
Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles - I'd be a little wary if I owned Dempster and he ended up with any of these American League East teams. Dempster has never pitched outside of the Senior Circuit in his 15-year career. Fenway Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards are also ranked as two of the top-10 best hitters parks, according to MLB Park Factors. Yankee Stadium is 18th on that list, and Dempster's ground ball rate may play well there, but the Yankees have won 10 in a row in large part due to improved starting pitching, so New York is least likely among these three to acquire Dempster's services.
Atlanta Braves - Turner Field is seventh best hitters park as rated by MLB Park Factors due to one of the highest doubles rates in baseball. However, Dempster would remain in the National League so I'd prefer him to land with Atlanta rather than moving to the AL East. Atlanta also has the second best defense in baseball in terms of UZR, as Braves fielders have saved the team 24.5 runs.
Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers - Progressive Field is right behind Dodger Stadium as the eighth most favorable park for pitchers. Dempster also wouldn't have to pitch in many tough parks in intra-divisional road games, as Target Field (12th most favorable for hitters), Comerica Park and Kauffmann Stadium (tied for 13th most favorable for hitters) are mostly neutral. Cleveland's UZR is third worst in baseball, however, better than only the Mets and Tigers, so if Dempster ended up with either AL Central team he would have to deal with a shoddy support system behind him.
New York Mets - New York's other team has played surprisingly well to this point, as it currently sits four games out of first place in the NL East. On the plus side, Citi Field rates as the fourth most favorable park for pitchers this season, which should offset New York's lousy defense. The Mets have also scored the third most runs in the National League. However, it seems unlikely that the cash-strapped Mets would take on the nearly $8 million in salary the Cubs righty is still owed this season.
St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis leads the National League in runs and Busch Stadium is in the middle of the pack (11th) in Park Factor. However, the Cardinals have a UZR of -15.6, fifth worst in baseball this season.
The combination of a favorable park, solid offense and excellent defense makes the Los Angeles Dodgers the best case scenario for Dempster's fantasy value.
However, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw (2.86 ERA), Chad Billingsley (3.75), Aaron Harang (3.59) and Chris Capuano (2.71) holding four rotation spots. The other belongs to rookie Nate Eovaldi (1.82), who has been exceptional in four starts in place of the injured Lilly (3.14). If Eovaldi continues to shine or if Lilly shows signs of improvement in his rehab from shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers may decide they don't need the Cubs righty.
Though there are some attractive destinations outside of Los Angeles, owners -- especially those in NL-only leagues, where Dempster will become a distant memory if he's dealt to the American League -- should make like Chicago and shop the 35-year-old Dempster when he returns from his injury in two weeks to avoid this cloudy situation.
It shouldn't be too difficult to sell Dempster's 2.11 ERA, especially with the promise that, regardless of where he lands, he'll have a much better offense behind him soon.