The Cubs have begun naming their price for star righthander Ryan Dempster, an indication he could be the first big domino to fall on the trade market.
The Cubs, building for 2014, are most interested in young pitching. The key to their requests, according to rival execs, is that they are willing to pay most or even all of a player's salary in order to get the best return in terms of young players. A rival GM said Dempster could bring one very good prospect or two mid-range prospects.
Dempster, 5-3 with a 1.86 ERA, has greatly enhanced his value with 33 straight scoreless innings, and the Dodgers, Braves, Indians, Tigers and Nationals are believed to be among those interested. The Dodgers are said to be the "clear favorites,'' by a rival official, which jibes with what was reported here a week ago.
Dempster is a free agent after the year. He has veto power over trades but is likely to accept a deal to the right contender.
Trade talks involving pitching stars such as the Phillies' Cole Hamels, the Brewers' Zack Greinke and Matt Garza, also of the Cubs, aren't believed as far along.
The Cubs have a nice nucleus of young positional players, with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielders Brett Jackson, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, plus veteran shortstop Starlin Castro, but their system is thin in the arms department.
The Dodgers have long been seen as a favorite. The Braves have the type of prospects that could satisfy the Cubs, but Atlanta's first pitching target is believed to be Greinke. The Nationals, looking to add another starter to a strong rotation, are an interesting entry. Their presence in the derby was first mentioned by Ken Rosenthal of @FOXSports.com.