The Cubs didn't necessarily guarantee themselves a World Series win by re-signing Ryan Dempster on Tuesday. Depressing truth on Chicago's North Side, of course, is that the move probably didn't even guarantee them one playoff win.
But it's important to remember that, before the fall, this is a team that won 97 games last year and, as general manager Jim Hendry swings to get better this winter, bringing Dempster back so swiftly was a key move.
It frees up Hendry to set out for new business, and not worry about the old.
"A week before Thanksgiving, pitching-wise, we're in good shape compared to a lot of teams in the industry," Hendry said Tuesday afternoon.
Don't underestimate the Cubs getting pole position in the winter race to set 2009 rosters thanks to the ultra-aggressive Hendry.
Think Atlanta, which needs two starting pitchers, failed to trade for Jake Peavy and was spurned in negotiations with Dempster, isn't envious right about now?
The Cubs' rotation is at least four-fifths set now with Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly. Chicago's rotation led the National League in ERA (3.75) and winning percentage (.633) in 2008, and the winning part wasn't even close.
In going 69-40, the Cubs' starters far outdistanced St. Louis' rotation (second in the NL with a .587 winning percentage, 64-45).
Now, things change, and none of this guarantees cake and ice cream in 2009. But as far as starting points, the Cubs are far ahead of most of the rest of the industry.
There is still plenty Hendry would like to do. The Cubs' never-ending quest to add a significant left-handed batter remains a high priority. Adding even more depth to the rotation would be helpful, too. The Cubs have had several conversations with San Diego about Peavy this winter, and free agent left-hander Randy Johnson sure would be a nice fit in the rotation's No. 5 slot.
Dempster, 31, was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs in '08.
"It's huge for us," Hendry said. "It was such a priority. Ryan did a terrific job. He had a phenomenal season. He's as good a clubhouse guy and teammate as we've ever had here."
Hendry, who acquired Kevin Gregg from Florida last week to help strengthen the bullpen, plans to meet with assistant Randy Bush and the rest of his brain trust again on Wednesday to plot where the Cubs' next moves.
"I don't think we're ever done looking," Hendry said. "There's always ways to get better. ... I wouldn't necessarily rule out anything."
Dempster's deal is four years at a reported $52 million, and he freely acknowledged he probably took a hometown discount to stay.
"For me, it's about being somewhere you like being," Dempster said in a conference call with reporters. "It's about being somewhere you think you can win.
"For me, it's more money than we deserve to be getting, but it's the marketplace."
Here's one more glimpse at the marketplace: Dempster said he did not receive any other firm offers, but since the free agent period opened up on Friday, he named Atlanta, the Mets, the Yankees, Toronto and the Los Angeles Dodgers as some of the teams that expressed interest.