Red Sox, Dempster agree to two-year deal


BOSTON -- Eager to add to their starting rotation, the Red Sox Thursday reached an agreement in principle on a two-year agreement for 26.5 million with free agent Ryan Dempster, baseball sources indicated.
Ken Rosenthal of was the first to report the deal.
Dempster, 35, had turned down a two-year, 25 million offer last week, but the Sox were adamant about not going to a guaranteed third year and instead slightly tweaked the money being offered to Dempster.
"We're working on a number of fronts,'' said GM Ben Cherington on the team's search for pitching before news of Dempster's deal emerged. "We have nothing to announce, but we feel like we're a little further ahead than we were when we left Nashville. We're engaged on a pitcher, but that's all I can say at this point. We're still working on a number of things.''
Initially, Dempster and agent Craig Landis were telling teams they were expecting a three-year deal. But the Red Sox may have overcome that issue by doing what they did with both Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli: Offering more in terms of average annual value (AAV) than the market dictates in exchange for a shorter-term deal.
By adding Dempster, the Red Sox have signed a veteran, durable pitcher who has averaged more than 199 innings over the last five seasons, giving them a dependable innings-eater.
"We've struggled in that area for different reasons,'' said Cherington. "One of the things we've been lacking is a sort of reliability and someone who can be a reliable, durable part of a rotation. So that's something we've focused on this offseason. We haven't executed anything yet, but we're hopeful we can find someone who could do that.
"We feel we need to go into 2013 with more starting pitching depth than we have right now. There are different ways to do that, but we're definitely working on it. We're hoping to add somebody.''
Dempster was said to initially be looking for a three-year deal with a team in the National League and one which holds spring training in Arizona.
But Dempster's market failed to fully materialize, with two-year offers from Kansas City and Milwaukee.
If there's a red flag on Dempster, it's this: he has spent all but two months of his 15-year career in the National League. And his history against American League teams is troubling.
Dempster was 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 10 starts for Texas after being dealt to Texas at the trade deadline. In 50 appearances in his career against American League opponents -- 35 of those in starts -- Dempster is 11-15 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.463 WHIP.
Over his entire career -- which includes those 35 games against A.L. opponents -- Dempster has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.430 WHIP.
Asked in general how the Sox evaluate a pitcher's adaptability to the American League, Cherington said: "It's got to be taken into account. It's one data point in a lot of different date points. You have to look at that, the performance track record, where he's done it and who he's done it against, makeup, how he fits in -- all those things have to be considered and then put into the context of what it's going to take to get him.''
When the sample size is small -- as is the case with Dempster -- the task becomes even more problematic, Cherington acknowledged.
"Certainly it's harder,'' he said. "When you talk about Hiroki Kuroda, it's easier because you just saw it in the A.L. East. You don't have that recent history with everyone. But that doesn't mean we can't find the right guy. We just have to keep working on it.''

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