When the Rangers landed Ryan Dempster, the general reaction was that they made a very good move.
They needed help for the starting rotation, they got it without sacrificing any of the best prospects in the organization and Dempster had the second-best ERA in the National League at the time of the deal. That's not bad for a player who was far from Texas' first choice on the trade market. Add that all together and you've got a pretty good case for a big trade win for Jon Daniels.
Not everyone is so convinced, however. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com spoke to a few scouts who have followed Dempster with the Cubs ahead of Thursday night's debut performance and feel that he is not going to be the type of pitcher that the Rangers hoped to acquire.
"To me, he's a fourth or fifth starter in the National League," said one scout. "I don't care what his ERA is. It's going to be very difficult for him to pitch in Texas."
"Forget about this stretch," another scout said. "His ERA translates to being in the high 4's in the American League. If you come to the conclusion that he's like [Zack] Greinke, you're losing your mind. Either he has to pitch in a bigger park, or he's going to give up four or five runs every game.
Knobler doesn't name the scouts, obviously, so we can't know if they are guys who might have raved about Chan Ho Park when Tom Hicks signed him to that ridiculous contract or if they are guys who might have uncovered Derek Holland as a 25th round pick. Having said that, the fear that the transition from the National League to the American League is too much for Dempster isn't coming out of nowhere.
There's a long list of pitchers who have tried to make that move, including Park and Roy Oswalt this year, and fallen flat on their faces. The designated hitter and overall depth of AL lineups mean that there's no soft spots for pitchers to get by without using their "A" stuff and that can be too much for some who try to make the leap.
All of that may prove to be true with Dempster, but the context is important. The other options that the Rangers already have in house profile to be less successful than Dempster and they don't have the added appeal of being in the middle of a great season. Dempster may well put up an ERA closer to 5 than you might like, but the impact of that has to be weighed against what Oswalt, Scott Feldman or Alexi Ogando might be able to do at this point in the season.
Dempster has a better chance of success than those guys and, regardless of Dempster's work, the Rangers know they won't win anything unless the offense gets back into high gear. If that happens, Dempster should give the Rangers enough to finish the season as a playoff team.
That makes this move a worthwhile risk for a team that had to take one.