Red Sox 'engaged' with free agent Dempster

GM Cherington on the hunt for durable additions to pitching staff

By Evan Drellich / 12/13/12 2:45 PM ET

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington didn't name names on Thursday, but he still gave credence to reports that he's nearing a deal with starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.
"We're engaged with a pitcher, but that's all I can say at this point," Cherington said after Shane Victorino's introductory news conference. "We're still working on a number of things, not just overall, but starting pitching we're still working on more than just one.
"Nothing to announce, but we feel like we're a little further ahead than we were when we left [the Winter Meetings in] Nashville."
Later on Wednesday, multiple media reports said the club and Dempster had a agreed on a two-year, $26.5 million deal, pending a physical.
Dempster, a 35-year-old righty, has spent all of his 15-season career in the National League aside from 12 starts with the Rangers to end last season. Dempster threw 173 innings last season between Texas and the Cubs, and in the four previous seasons, he reached 200 innings.
The Sox have notably lacked durable arms.
"We struggled in that area for different reasons," Cherington said of 2012. "One of the things we've been lacking has just been the reliability and someone who can be a reliable, durable part of the rotation. So that is something we've focused on this offseason. We haven't executed anything yet, but hopefully we can find somebody to do that. I think we feel like need to go into 2013 with more starting pitching depth than we have right now. There are different ways to do that."
The Red Sox might feel this is the time to push for pitching, with moves expected to come faster ahead of Christmas and the new year, when things will slow down, if just briefly.
"There's this period between now and 12 days from now, stuff tends to get done this time a year, then maybe there's a quiet period and things pick up again," Cherington said. "There are opportunities to get things done in the next 12 days, and after that, we'll keep working on it."
If a deal with Dempster is reached, the largest question surrounding him would be the adjustment to not just the American League, but the AL East. Dempster's time in Texas didn't go as planned. After posting a 2.25 ERA with the Cubs, he had a 5.09 mark with the Rangers. That included 10 home runs in 69 innings. Dempster allowed one fewer home run (nine) in a lot more innings with the Cubs (104).
But pitchers have been able to transition from the NL to the AL. Sometimes there's an element of surprise that works against hitters, but that's not likely to mean much across a whole season.
"Harder. It's certainly harder," Cherington said of bringing guys across league lines. "When you talk about [the Yankees'] Hiroki Kuroda, it's easier because you just saw it in the AL East. You don't have that kind of recent history with everyone. That doesn't mean we can't find the right guy. Just got to keep working at it."
Adding Dempster probably doesn't mean the Sox would be content with their stockpile of arms. Cherington said he's been involved with nearly every starting pitcher that's come off the market, be it by trade or free agency. That list, then, could include Zack Greinke and Dan Haren.
"I think we've been involved at some level in just about every starting pitcher that's moved -- either signed or traded," Cherington said. "Not everyone, but just about everyone. In every case, you sort of have a limit, boundaries for what you're willing to do for each situation, and we haven't been able to execute it yet.
"We're still hopeful we'll be able to add somebody or more than one guy. We're not going to stop necessarily. We'll see. I don't look at [those pitchers who have new teams] as missed opportunities, because you pursue things, but you have to have a limit of what you're going to do. We've had a limit, and at some point, we'll find a match. I'm hopeful and confident we'll be able to do that."
FOX Sports first reported the Sox and Dempster were close.