The Rundown: Ryan Dempster Joins Front Office, Cubs Looking for a Catcher, Mallee to Work with Javy Baez in Puerto Rico

Another former Cub has returned to Chicago.

This time it’s Ryan Dempster. And it’s not a return to the bullpen or starting rotation, but the Cubs front office. Dempster has been named special assistant to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

The former reliever/starting pitcher is a bit of a polarizing character, as some people find his personality a bit grating. I’ll admit that I think he goes over the top at times trying to be funny, and that his Harry Caray impression is fairly obnoxious.

But overall, I really appreciate Dempster’s time with the Cubs. When they wanted him to be a closer, he did it. And then when he was re-converted to a starter, he was pretty damn good. (Just try not to think about when he gave up seven walks and a grand slam in Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS.)

A lot of the Dempster ill will comes from how he left the Cubs in 2012, and the whole “Golden Tee incident.” It’s too bad that people view him negatively because of that.

Dempster told the media on Friday that he has spoken with free-agent target Jon Lester, according to Patrick Mooney. “I know that the city of Chicago would embrace him,” Dempster said about Lester. “He’s just the type of person that can pitch here and do really well here. Hopefully, we’re lucky enough to have him with us.”

I doubt Dempster would have a huge effect on whether Lester comes to Chicago or not, but I suppose it can’t hurt.

Other notes

* Theo Epstein met the media on Friday for a pre-Winter Meeting presser and mentioned that the Cubs are receiving interest in third baseman Luis Valbuena, according to Marc Gonzales. Obviously, the Cubs won’t give him up unless they receive someone significant. Valbuena is inexpensive, plays solid defense, takes a lot of pitches, and has some pop.

* Javier Baez will play four to five times per week in Puerto Rico this winter, writes Carrie Muskat. Cubs hitting coach John Mallee is expected to join Baez in Puerto Rico; I’m sure we’re all hoping the extra work pays off. If Baez next could start producing next year like he did throughout the minor leagues, this lineup is going to be so ridiculously fun to watch.

* The Cubs are looking for another catcher, according to Jesse Rogers. Theo Epstein told the media that they have faith in Welington Castillo, but “If you can have two good catchers, that’s certainly better than one.” So I guess the question is whether the Cubs try and find a true backup — a guy who will primarily contribute with leadership skills (David Ross?), or someone who would also take a significant chunk of playing time away from Castillo (Miguel Montero?).

* One of the top free-agent relievers is off the market, as LHP Andrew Miller has signed with the Yankees for four years, $36 million. The Cubs were never heavily rumored to be in on Miller, and spending this kind of money doesn’t seem to make sense for the Cubs since their bullpen is actually a strength at this point.

* The Tampa Bay Rays’ managerial search is finally over: former Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash will be their new skipper. At only 37 years old, he becomes the youngest manager in MLB. With a relatively quiet past couple weeks of the offseason for the Cubs, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that they have Joe Maddon as their manager now. That is so huge.

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